On 3 November, with immediate effect, changes were made to the questions in the ESTA application form. We have spoken to the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) who have confirmed that this applies to travellers applying for an ESTA from now on and has no impact on travellers who already have an ESTA.
Since 2008, visitors to the US from Visa Waiver Program countries have been required to go through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) process. ESTA is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US under the VWP. The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended that travellers apply as soon as they begin preparing travel plans or prior to purchasing airline tickets. The ESTA fee is USD14, which covers the traveller for two years; this fee is not changing.
The DHS has strengthened the security of the VWP through enhancements to ESTA in response to increasing concerns regarding foreign fighters. The improvements are designed to address the immediate foreign fighter threat, provide an additional layer of enduring security for the VWP and facilitate visa-free travel to the US. DHS has determined that ESTA enhancements will improve the Department’s ability to screen prospective VWP travellers and more accurately and effectively identify those who pose a security risk to the US. DHS also believes enhancements to ESTA will help the Department facilitate adjudication of ESTA applications. By requiring ESTA applicants to provide additional information, DHS will enhance its ability to identify ESTA applicants on the terrorist watch list and therefore reduce the number of inconclusive matches that currently result in an ESTA denial, requiring the applicant to apply for a visa for travel to the US.
The changes announced on 3 November include new data elements added to the ESTA application as well as rephrasing of existing ESTA questions. The additional questions are as follows:
Further information is contained in the Enhanced ESTA FAQs