CBP Tightens Security Measures for Visa Waiver Travel to the U.S.

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) increased security screening measures on travelers who wish to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). VWP enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States as visitors without obtaining a visa. Under these new measures, those seeking to travel to the U.S. under the VWP will be required to complete a longer application when seeking approval under Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). (VWP travelers are required to hold an ESTA approval prior to entering the United States). According to CBP, the increased security measures are in response to growing concerns that foreign fighters who possess U.S. and European passports or travel documents, and have joined militants in Syria and Iraq may seek to travel to the U.S. CBP indicated these individuals could pose a potential threat for committing terrorist attacks in the United States.

Effective November 3, 2014, the new measures mandate VWP travelers to provide the following additional data fields information when completing the ESTA application: (1) other names/aliases or other citizenships; (2) parents name(s); (3) national identification number (if applicable); (4) contact information (email, phone, points of contact); (5) employment information (if applicable); and (6) city of birth.

Travelers with a current and valid ESTA do not need to reapply. However, a new ESTA with these new data fields will be required once the valid ESTA or passport expire, or for any future travel under the VWP. The new security measures may result in possible delay of ESTA processing because manual adjudication may be required for cases involving erroneous information, data fields entered as “unknown,” or passports from multiple countries. All VWP countries are required to comply with the new security measures.

What Should I do?

Travelers who use the VWP should apply for ESTA security clearance at the earliest opportunity and should prepare for a possible increased delay or a denial of ESTA clearance. In the event that ESTA clearance is denied, the individual will be required to apply for an actual visa at a U.S. consulate.

Please contact our office if you have any questions about the new ESTA procedures.

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