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New Visa Regulations for entering the USA
If you have travelled to the United States of America before, you will be familiar with the green cards that the aircrew used to hand out to you before landing in the United States and with which you were able to enter the country after passing through passport control at your destination.
As from January 2009 the United States government have replaced the old visa waiver card system with the new ESTA.
Passengers travelling to the United States of America from countries whose citizens do not need visas, must now register online with the United States government at least 72 hours before departure. This is because the old card system could not be checked in advance. This is part of the new Homeland Security Anti Terrorism Program.
A homeland Security official stated that terrorists who are nationals of visa waiver countries will now find it much more difficult to enter the United States of America. He mentioned Richard Read the convicted shoe bomber and Zacarias Moussaoui, the French national, convicted with involvement in the 9/11 attacks; both travelled on visa waiver cards from their own countries.
The official line from the United States government department of Homeland Security, is that getting this information in advance enables their front line personnel to determine whether a visa free traveller presents a threat or not before they board an aircraft bound for the United States or from entering the United States by any other means. It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen their security and to ensure the safety of all international travellers.
This new electronic Visa (ESTA) can be registered by a travel agent, airline website or through a special United States government website. (See below)
http://www. estauk. com/? gclid=CJqVp_DjhJoCFQaA3god6wviFA
The link above will take you to a website which will guide you through the whole process, but this is a United Kingdom website and is for UK residents only. The main advantage of the new ESTA for the traveller, is that you will not have to fill in forms on every trip you take to the United States as the visa lasts either 2 years or until your passport expires.
Those of you who have used the old paper visa waiver forms on the aircraft will soon be familiar with the new system, but do remember that you will not be able to travel to or enter the United States without an ESTA in the future.
Everything that adds to the safety of the travelling public has to be seen as a good thing and in the long run should speed up the security process when travelling through the United States airports.
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