VWP Travelers Will Soon Be Required to Use ESTA When Entering the U.S. at Land Ports of Entry

The paper version of the Form-94W, the Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record, that is currently being used at the southern and northern borders will soon be eliminated. Foreign nationals who will be entering the United States at land ports of entry and are citizens of the 40 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program will be required to begin using the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) on May 2, 2022.

The VWP permits individuals that are citizens of these countries to enter the U.S. without a visa for business or tourism for up to 90 days. VPW travelers were required to begin using the ESTA in 2008 if they were entering the U.S. by Sea or air. The ESTA does work as a type of pre-approval, but Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers do have to authority to make any decisions about entry at the border.

According to the DHS, this new rule concerning the use of the ESTA for VWP travelers entering at land ports will, “provide immediate benefits to VWP travelers and to CBP. Learn More

This rule will produce a consistent, modern VWP admission policy, strengthen national security through enhanced traveler vetting, expedite entry processing at land ports of entry, collect Form I-94W information electronically, and reduce inadmissible traveler inspections, generating time and cost savings for CBP and VWP travelers.”

The ESTA regulations that apply to land borders are basically the same as those for sea or air borders. Although, there is one major difference. When VWP travelers plan to enter the United States by sea or air carrier, they must first obtain approval and then give the sea or air carrier their ESTA information. Whereas those travelers entering at land ports will generally acquire their ESTA approval right before they are admitted, so they can show it to the CBP.

Here are some tips from the Department of Homeland Security for travelers planning to enter the United States using the ESTA.

In order to avoid processing delays, apply for the ESTA at least 72 hours ahead of when you will need it. Beginning on May 2, 2022, any travelers that arrive at the border with Canada or Mexico attempting to enter the U.S. that do not have ESTA pre-approval will need to return to Mexico or Canada and apply for it.

The ESTA is generally valid for two years and can be used multiple times. Canadian citizens do not usually need ESTA pre-approval to enter the U.S. by sea or air because they are visa-exempt. This exemption will probably apply to entry by land as well.

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