Visa Waiver Travel and TN Status Updates
November 17, 2008
SEVEN COUNTRIES ADDED TO VISA WAIVER PROGRAM
On November 17, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that seven additional countries have been added to the Visa Waiver Program. The countries include the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and South Korea.
The Visa Waiver Program permits citizens of selected countries to apply to enter the United States as a business visitor or tourist without a B visa stamp. These individuals must present a passport valid for at least six months, and evidence of eligibility for admission to the United States (e.g., evidence of business activities if entering as a business visitor). Visa Waiver Program entrants are typically granted admission to the United States for up to a 90-day period; extensions of stay and changes of status from a Visa Waiver Program admission are not permitted.
ESTA - ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION - PRECLEARANCE FOR ALL VISA WAIVER PROGRAM TRAVELERS REQUIRED AS OF JANUARY 12, 2009
DHS is implementing an online preclearance program that will be required of all individuals (including infants) seeking admission to the United States pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program beginning January 12, 2009.
The program, known as "ESTA," is currently active and can be accessed at the following website address:
The ESTA system will provide a travel authorization approval or denial that is electronically transmitted to carriers, upon carrier request, prior to travel. An ESTA system approval does not guarantee admission to the United States pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program; admission is still determined upon inspection by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.
An ESTA system denial means only that an individual cannot travel to the United States pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program, and does not mean that the individual is necessarily inadmissible to the United States. An individual denied travel authorization may still apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.
Unless revoked, travel authorizations are valid for two years from the date of authorization, or until passport expiration, whichever comes first. An individual will be permitted to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program multiple times during the ESTA travel authorization validity period.
NAFTA TN STATUS INCREASED TO 3 YEARS
DHS issued a regulation in October 2008 permitting the admission of individuals to the United States pursuant to NAFTA in TN professional classification for periods of up to three years. Individuals may also apply for extensions of stay in the United States (or renewals at a port of entry) in periods of up to three years. Admissions and extensions of stay were previously limited to one-year increments.
While there is no explicit limit on the time that an individual is permitted to remain in the United States pursuant to TN status, an individual must always demonstrate that he or she holds the intent to remain temporarily in the United States in order to qualify for the classification.