Visa Freedom to USA for the Baltics? Say hi to ESTA!

In November 2008 a few more countries, including Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, were grated the long-awaited visa freedom to the United States of America. This “freedom” is really a Visa Waiver Program. At this time citizens of Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Republic of Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and United Kingdomis can take advantage of the program.

As of this year USA established an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), meaning that nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States. This is a mandatory procedure for all travellers.

This electronic application system is kind of an “electronic visa” – and by applying for it on a dedicated web site, you can be either approved or denied. You are basically eligible if you are a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waver Program, if you have a machine-readable/biometric passport that complies with all the requirements, if you intend to travel to the US as a non-immigrant visitor for up to 90 days, arrive on a “signatory carrier”, can present your return ticket and pose no threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the United States.

In the application you will be asked the state your address, contact information, birth date & place, your passport information, arrival flight info, your address while in the US – and also questions about your health, possible criminal record or previous deportation from the US.  

The US authorities are taking it very seriously, as in order your Travel Authorization to be approved, you have to:

* Establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting United States Customs and Border Protection Officer that you are entitled to be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and that you are not inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
* Waive any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
* Reaffirm, through the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the United States, your waiver of any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.

Currently there is no fee to apply for a travel authorization. However, there may be an application fee in the future.

 You can find more detailed info about the Visa Waiver Program and about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/WebHelp/ESTA_Screen-Level_Online_Help_1.htm

You can apply for the Electronic Travel Authorization here: https:­/­/­esta.­cbp.­dhs.­gov/­esta

You have to fill out the form in English, but the instructions are in many different languages, including Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Finnish, Swedish, Norwegian, Hungarian, Spanish, Portugese etc.

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