Mother May I? US Reminds Europeans to Ask Permission 72 Hours in Advance to Come Here

The US Visa Waiver Program means that citizens of certain countries do not need a visa to come to the United States. Except they need an ESTA, which they have to apply for in advance. It’s just not called a visa.

Last year the US Secretary of Homeland Security said he wanted to revisit allowing Europeans to travel to the US with ‘only’ an ESTA. ESTA is effectively a visa which the US allows online application for, rather than requiring an in-person embassy visit.

The US no longer allows requesting permission to enter same day. Instead they require applying for the ESTA 72 hours in advance, as the government is now reminding Europeans. (HT: @airlinewriter)

Due to changes in ESTA application processing, real-time approvals will no longer be available. Citizens of participating Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries traveling to the United States are strongly encouraged to apply for an ESTA at the time of booking their trip and no later than 72 hours prior to departure. Applicants who apply on the same day of their flight’s departure risk not having an approved ESTA prior to their scheduled departure. International travelers without an approved ESTA will not be authorized to board their flight.

Copyright: prestonia / 123RF Stock Photo

By the way the number of people killed by terrorists who entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program is zero. Advance application for an ESTA isn’t a big deal for tourist travel relative to allowing closer-in application, but it is an encumbrance on business travel.

And U.S. travelers are certainly aware of the challenges of dealing with visa applications to visit certain countries, and how much simpler it is to visit somewhere that either doesn’t require a visa for U.S. citizens or allows for visa on arrival.

The U.S. won’t allow foreigners without approved visa or ESTA to board aircraft headed for the U.S. That raises the transaction costs of coming here, which makes doing business with the U.S., spending tourism dollars, and supporting U.S. industry more difficult for little security benefit in exchange.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. There has got to be a chilling effect on tourism. I certainly avoid casual visits to any countries whose visa requirements are tedious or expensive. In terms of expense, they range from zero to $250 for me.

  2. Yea it is stupid. I most likely would not travel to a country where I had to apply for entry in advance. I hope they change it back. That is why I have never gone into China from Hong Kong, on my many trips to Hong Kong.

    Can we please discuss this without too much angry politics.

  3. “By the way the number of people killed by terrorists who entered the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program is zero.”

    Richard Reid (the shoe bomber), a UK citizen, came close.

  4. USBusinessTraveller ….
    …. but at least that UK did pay the US$14.00 to apply for the US ESTA program, so that should help that country?!
    Garry well explained what ESTA is, but he forgot 1 VERY important thing, the fee you pay EVERY time you apply, if denied or the application expires (after 24 months) you pay again.
    This is money that the US is making millions too!
    The US people don’t know that and soon that income source for the US will go down again as more and more tourists (who then spend more and more money again, staying at overpriced hotels for no to very little value compared to Asia, Mid East …) so it will hit the Economy in the US very badly again.
    I personally think, it’s time that the EU starts a VISA program for North Americans to visit the old world. Not a revanche but more of a warning and make EU boarder police a bit richer so they can hire more people.

    Me personally (as a tourist to the US) i would never shoot anybody, but 1 person in the US sure would deserve it, you guess right.
    If it’s done by a tourists visiting the US, at least the country got money for it then, paying for the ESTA application. 😉

  5. @steffl – you do realize that the EU is launching the ETIAS system in 2021, which requires a 7 euro fee? This system will cover citizens of the 61 countries who currently can enter the EU without a visa. Google is your friend.

    Nice little ran,t, though……

  6. Australia has had a similar thing for years, called the Electronic Travel Authority (ETA), that applies to (among others) US, Canadian, South Korean, and Japanese citizens. It costs AUS$20. The fact that I had pay for one and apply online did not cause slightest hesitation to go to Australia, nor would I consider it even a slight point of friction in the travel process. Based on the way the ETA works, I think that Gary’s criticism is WAY overblown and unwarranted. Oh the Horror! The US government wants–oh my God–three days advance notice before someone unknown to our government enters the country, oh the humanity. It aint a big deal. It aint even a little deal.

  7. I don’t see this having any significant impact to *tourists*. Unlike us FT-er types, most leisure travelers plan their vacations many months in advance.

    It will have some impact to those with an unplanned personal emergency need to visit, perhaps.

  8. How does this really differ from APIS, where you enter your flight and hotel information in advance of a trip? I’ve done that for several non-U.S. countries in advance when flying to them and it was super easy. Not really sure what the big deal or problem is here. Do lots of people book same-day plane travel into the U.S. from abroad?

    Doesn’t seem like much of an issue, unless there is some new fee involved.

  9. Ever since Congress created the 100-headed hydra known as DHS it has morphed annually into an ever-bigger Soviet-style bureaucracy that exists mostly just to sustain itself.

    DHS has been the biggest obstacle to tourism in the USA and I know of literally nobody who supports it, not least under the insane misleadership of that twit Kjirsten Skandinaviansnufalupagus or whatever her unspellable European-American immigrant name is.

  10. I do not believe it is a convenience issue with Europeans. It has become another added reason for Europeans to not vacation in the U.S. In case you haven’t noticed, there is a decided drop in Europeans visiting the U.S.

    If you keep adding hurdles and costs for our long term allies to visit, they are happy to spend it elsewhere. Sort of like what happens when U.S. Airlines provide a crap product internationally. There are always Singapore, Lufthansa, and Emirates to provide a good experience at competitive rates.

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