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US makes changes to Visa waiver scheme

23 January 2009 17:54

US makes changes to Visa waiver scheme

From January 12th 2009, British travellers visiting the US will be required to register online before they board flights to the country.

In one of his last acts before stepping down, President George Bush unveiled the scheme last month which will require all passengers from all member countries in the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) to apply online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (Esta).

It is hoped that the Esta system will improve the security of the VWP, while also speeding up the process.

The online form urges travellers to disclose their personal details and travel information, while also quizzing them on whether they have any communicable diseases, take drugs or have previously been denied a US visa.

Jackie Bednarz, from the department of homeland security, explained that President Bush hopes to speed up the process of accepting new countries into the VWP before leaving office.

She added: "It is our objective to admit additional countries before the change of US administration."

In order to be eligible for the VWP, visitors must have holiday insurance cover for the duration of their stay in the US. Travellers will be allowed into the country for up to 90 days without needing a visa.