The United States has begun cracking down on nationals of 38 countries who arrive in the country with a VWP (Visa Waiver Program) for business/pleasure without needing to get a formal visa by securing a pre-clearance known as ESTA (Electronic System of Travel Authorization).
The ESTA registration, which is valid for two years, allows its holders to stay for a maximum of 90 days per visit. Nearly 20 million visitors per year arrive through this program.
All ESTA information is automatically screened by the US DHS (Department of Homeland Security) against various databases of law enforcement and counterterrorism, besides one of the INTERPOL.
It was recently announced by DHS that it will scrutinize ESTA data every day to ensure that it was tapping the latest intelligence information and law enforcement about a specific visitor.
The US administration has also begun cracking down on travellers from these countries who overstay their 90-day duration. It will assess nations that have high rates of overstay (two percent or above), and launch a public awareness campaign on penalties of overstaying.
DHS is quoted by JD Supra as reporting that only four countries until will need to organize this education campaign – Portugal, Hungary, Greece and San Marino. As of now, travellers who breach the 90-day rule frequently will have their ESTA status annulled. On the other hand, a country which violates this rule could also be dropped from the VWP program.
A new program has been launched by CBP (Customs Border Protection) to help visitors to adhere to the 90-day rule and prevent their overstay. Hereafter, on the CBP’s website, travellers can enter their name and passport information under the “View Compliance” tab and be able to see for themselves how many days they can remain legally in America. Moreover, an email reminder will also be sent by CBP to travellers in the US 10 days before their lawful admission’s expiry period. If any of the foreign nationals overstay, they would also get an email with regard to their potential overstay infringement.
It was also announced by CBP that it will progressively extend the email notification program to other temporary admission classes.
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