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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008
New U.S. entry requirement
Permission needed from Web site even for staying a short time
By MARIKO KATO
The United States will launch a new immigration system starting Jan. 12 to try to prevent terrorists entering the country. This will require foreign short-stay visitors from 34 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, including Japan, to apply for travel authorization at a Web site in advance of boarding a plane or vessel headed for the U.S.
Following are questions and answers on the application procedure:
Who needs to apply for the travel authorization?
You need to apply if you are an eligible citizen or national of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program. Countries include Japan, the U.K., Ireland, Australia, Singapore, Portugal, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. Seven countries were added in November: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania and Slovakia. The list of participating states can be found on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Web site at www.dhs.gov
Procedures have not changed for travelers from nonparticipating countries who require a visa.
How do you apply?
Access the ESTA Web site run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Proceed to "Apply" and fill in the questionnaire. The Web site is available in 16 languages, including Japanese.
What information do you need to give?
According to the ESTA Web site, compulsory information includes personal details such as name, date of birth, country of citizenship, country of residence and passport details. You must also declare any communicable diseases, or physical or mental disorders, drug abuse or addiction, and give any history of arrests or convictions of certain crimes, visa revocation or deportation.
You will also be asked for optional information such as contact details, flight information and address in the U.S.
What happens then?
When you submit your application, the system will give you an application number. You will need this to check the status of your application. The system will then match your details against the "black list."
When will you know if your application was approved?
In most cases, you will receive an application status immediately, which you can check online. If more time is needed to consider your application, you will receive an answer in 72 hours.
Is there anything further one
would have to do at the airport?
No. Once you have received travel authorization, you take the normal steps for boarding. When you check in, your travel authorization will be verified electronically.
Is there a fee to apply for travel authorization?
Currently, no. But this may change in the future, according to the Web site of the Department of Homeland Security.
What happens if you are denied travel authorization?
If your application for travel authorization is not approved, this only prohibits you to travel under the Visa Waiver Program.
It does not affect visa eligibility. If you still plan to travel, visit the Web site for the U.S. Department of State at www.travel.state.gov for information about applying for a visa.
How long is the travel authorization valid for?
The travel authorization is generally valid for two years, or until your passport expires. If you wish to travel to the U.S. again within the two years, there is no need to reapply for travel authorization.