US imposes new travel procedures

From January next year, travellers to the United States from 22 countries in Europe and five in the Asia-Pacific region currently exempt from certain US visa requirements will be required to obtain travel authorization.

Under the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), all nationals, including children, from the 27 countries under the US visa waiver program will be required to fill out an electronic travel authorization form posted on the Web( prior to boarding a US-bound plane or vessel.

Initially, there will be no fee to submit an application. Travellers will be required to give details about criminal records, communicable diseases, past history of visa revocation or deportation, and basic biographical data.

“Getting this information in advance enables our front-line personnel to determine whether a visa-free traveller presents a threat before boarding an aircraft or arriving on our shores,” Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said. “It is a relatively simple and effective way to strengthen our security, and that of international travellers, while helping to preserve an important program for key allies.”