Only half of British visitors signed up to new US visa system

Only half of the British people travelling to the United States next month have registered with the new Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

On January 12 2009, it will become compulsory for countries in Visa Waiver Programme to obtain travel authorisation before travelling to the US. Travellers can register for authorisation though ESTA, an internet application on a US government website.

Last year, 8,000 Brits travelled to the US each day – but only 3,700 per day are signed up to ESTA. Final figures won’t be known until the end of next month.

Customs and Border Protection Office at the US Embassy head Rick Galbraith said: “Britain is among the top countries that have understood the need to sign up for ESTA. The response is good but many more will have to sign up before travelling.

“They need to know that ESTA will not be optional – it will be required before they get on that plane.”

The online application will replace the forms normally filled out on the plane.

Travellers who do have access to the internet will be able to ask their travel agents to fill out the application on their behalf.

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