By the end of summer, the I-94W paper forms for entry into the United States will be completely phased out and all visitors from Visa Waiver Program countries will be required to use only the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, according to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
ESTA, which requires all international travelers from VWP countries to register in an online database, became mandatory on January 20, 2010. If a visitor’s application is approved, the authorization is good for two years and can be renewed. DHS officials say ESTA will streamline the entry process and improve security as it enables authorities to pre-screen visitors. Travelers who do not fill out an online ESTA form will not be able to enter the country. Applications can be found on the ESTA Web site.
Prior to ESTA implementation, visitors from VWP countries had to fill out an I-94W form before each trip to the United States. After ESTA became mandatory on January 20, VWP travelers were still required to fill out an I-94W form in addition to the ESTA application as airlines ramped up their systems to administer ESTA. Now, with the systems in place, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which is part of DHS, will completely phase out the I-94W forms. They will likely be phased out by the end of July, said Joanne Ferreira, spokeswoman for the U.S. CBP, but by the end of summer at the latest.
The U.S. Travel Association applauds the program. “With full implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, the United States is proving that it can simultaneously strengthen security and improve our customers' experience,” said Roger Dow, president and chief executive officer at U.S. Travel, in a press release. It will reduce confusion and increase the speed of processing for travelers, he added.
To date, U.S. CBP has received more than 19 million ESTA applications from citizens of VWP countries. There are now 36 VWP countries, the latest being Greece, which was added on April 5.