ESTA Mandatory to Enter the US by Land

The United States extends its visa policy. As of May 2, 2022, all VWP members entering the U.S. by land will need to hold a valid ESTA.

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The Government of the United States of America has announced that ESTA will now be obligatory for all travelers coming from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program who plan to enter the States by land

Since 2008, only air and sea passengers have been required to hold a valid ESTA to travel to the US by air or sea. The new ESTA policy including arrivals by land will become effective as of May 2, 2022. From that day, travelers from VWP countries will need to hold an ESTA when entering the US by land. 

The introduction of ESTA as a mandatory entry permit for land entry points will replace the non-immigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record (I-94W form) which is currently mandatory to cross all southern and northern US land borders. ESTA is supposed to strengthen national security while at the same time speeding up land border controls, which will allow the country's authorities to save plenty of money and time. 

The ESTA for land travelers will be the same travel authorization issued to enter the US by sea or air. The new rule to hold it for land crossing points is only an extension of the already existing visa policy. 

ESTA characteristics

ESTA is a one-type travel authorization covering business, transit, and tourism purposes. Its holder can, for example, travel to the States for holidays, visit some friends or family, attend business meetings, or simply make a transit stop before heading to his final destination. 

As a multiple-entry travel permit, it allows numerous visits to the US throughout its 2-year validity period. Moreover, every single stay can last for up to 3 months. 

ESTA can be obtained entirely online. The application process looks the same for all types of travelers - air, sea, or land. The ESTA application should be submitted 72 hours in advance of the planned arrival in the US. 

Who will need ESTA for entering the US by Land?

Every traveler coming from the country who is a member of VWP will need to submit a valid ESTA to cross the US land border. These travelers are not obliged to have a visa but they must have an approved ESTA. 

All the remaining countries not participating in the Visa Waiver Program need to follow the entry and visa requirements for their countries, which may require them to hold a regular US visa. 

Canadian nationals as one of the visa-exempt countries for travel to the US are not obliged to have an ESTA to enter the States by land. The new policy allows them to continue to arrive in the US visa-free and without a valid ESTA regardless of the selected way of entry - land, sea, or air. 

Katarzyna Żyła

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