U.S. Customs and Border Protection has announced new fees for persons seeking authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The authorization is obtained prior to travel through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), and typically remains valid for two years. Beginning on September 8, 2010, the ESTA travel authorization will require a valid credit card for payment of a $14.00 fee. The purpose of the fee is to finance efforts to promote international travel to the United States, and cover operational costs associated with running the ESTA program. Individuals who already possess ESTA authorization do not need to pay the fee until it is time for them to reapply.
Since 2009, the Department of State has been phasing in a new, online visa application form at embassies worldwide. The new DS-160 combines all previously used forms (DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158) for all nonimmigrant visa applications except Ks and Es. DOS's goal is to use the DS-160 exclusively worldwide by April 30, 2010.Continue Reading...
Under the Consolidated Natural Resources Act of 2008, U.S. immigration law will extend to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), a chain of 14 Pacific islands located near Guam, beginning on November 28, 2009. Inspection and admission of travelers to the CNMI will change, and authorized stays under the Visa Waiver Program in Guam and CNMI will increase from 15 to 45 days. The Department of Homeland Security announcement may be read here.
Qualifying foreign nationals planning to visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must now register under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling to the United States without a visa. ESTA is designed to identify those individuals who may be a security or law enforcement risk. The application takes only a few minutes to complete and can be completed online. Once approved, the ESTA authorization is valid for two years and can be renewed as often as required. Individuals who qualify for the VWP but who will be traveling to another country and stopping in the United States en route must also register under ESTA since the termination of the "Transit without a Visa" program. The USCIS Questions and Answers on ESTA fact sheet, which contains a list of participating VWP countries, can be read here.