Mandatory Use of ESTA to Enter the United States by Land

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The United States government has announced that the US ESTA will be mandatory for citizens of all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries entering the United States by land.

This new policy will be introduced on May 2, 2022. From this date, visa-exempt travelers will still be able to enter the US by land without a visa, but they will need to have an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

The ESTA permits the holder to enter the US for business or tourism purposes and stay for up to 90 days. Since 2008 this travel authorization has been mandatory to visit the US by any air or sea entry point. It will now be a requirement for entering the country by land too.

The mandatory ESTA for land entry into the US will replace the I-94W form (Non-immigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record) which is currently required for access into the US by all northern and southern land borders.

According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), this new 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.”

Who Will Need ESTA to Enter the US by Land?

All citizens of Visa Waiver Program nations will have to show an approved ESTA to enter the US at a border crossing. These individuals will not need a visa to cross the border but they must have this travel authorization.

All other nationalities will need to follow the entry requirements for their country of citizenship, which usually includes having a US visa.

Will Canadians Need ESTA to Cross a US Land Border?

Canadians are visa-exempt and are also not required to apply for an ESTA to enter the US. With this new policy, Canadian visitors will continue to be able to enter the US without a visa or ESTA travel authorization.

How to Get the ESTA to Travel to the US by Land

The process for obtaining an ESTA for land entry into the US is the same as for air or sea travel. Visitors can apply for the US ESTA quickly and easily online.

Visitors to the US who intend to enter the country by land must get a valid ESTA before arrival. Travelers are advised to request their travel authorization at least 72 hours before departure, in case of delays.

Can I use the same ESTA to enter by land, air, or sea?

The ESTA travel authorization is the same document for entry by air, land, or sea. The new rule is just an extension of the already existing policy, which now covers all ports of entry into the US.

The US ESTA is valid for multiple entries into the country. The holder can use the same document to enter the US by numerous border crossings, provided it has not expired.

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