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Business travellers and tourists heading to the United States under the visa-waiver program will now need to apply for their US ESTA at least 72 hours before travel or risk being offloaded from their flight, with the US Government no longer granting “real-time” ESTA approvals.
Although most passengers would apply for their ESTA well ahead of their flight, sometimes, busy business travellers or holidaymakers simply forget, or don’t realise their previous ESTA had expired, and so could previously apply at the airport, get speedy ESTA approval and board their flight as normal.
Under these changes, effective immediately, “arriving at the airport without a previously approved ESTA will likely result in being denied boarding,” says the US Customs and Border Protection agency.
ESTA, the US Government’s Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, is a compulsory online clearance for Australian passport holders – and many others – travelling to the United States for business or pleasure under the visa-waiver program: that is, without a prearranged US visa.
Passengers approved to travel by the ESTA system receive a two-year authorisation covering multiple trips for business, tourism or both, at a one-off cost of US$14, payable by credit card during the application process.
Travellers would only need to apply for a new ESTA if their previous approval has expired or they’ll be using a new passport to enter the United States, as each ESTA is linked to a passport, not to the traveller themselves.
If you’re heading to the United States, use the official ESTA website to apply for your own travel authorisation well in advance of your planned trip, or to confirm that your existing ESTA hasn’t expired, to ensure a smooth departure.