The United States announced plans to expand the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) beginning November 17, 2008. Citizens and nationals from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia will be able to travel to the United States under the VWP provided they have an e-passport and an approved pre-travel authorization via ESTA. Citizens or nationals of approved VWP countries are eligible to travel to the United States for up to 90 days for business or tourism.
The pre-travel authorization must be obtained online through the ESTA, a free Internet application administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that determines the preliminary eligibility of visitors to travel under the VWP, prior to boarding a carrier to the United States. There is no fee for completion of an ESTA application. Eligible visitors seeking to travel to the United States under the VWP must apply for authorization in advance via the ESTA website at: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The ESTA application website is available in 16 languages and includes a help section that provides additional information for VWP travelers to guide them through the application process.
The DHS has also announced that beginning Jan. 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all previous VWP countries must obtain prior approval through ESTA before traveling to the United States without a visa under the VWP. This includes citizens or nationals of the following countries currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
If you have further questions, please consult with an immigration attorney at Parker Poe.