US holds fire on new entry requirements
The United States has been forced to backtrack on its new immigration rules to avoid chaos at Britain's airports next week.
By David Millward
The Telegraph (U.K.), January 9, 2009
Passengers had been told they must have clearance to fly three days ahead of their journey to avoid being denied boarding.
But The Daily Telegraph has learned the US authorities will not strictly enforce the new system known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA when it begins on Monday.
From Monday, the thousands of passengers who travel from Britain to the US every day should obtain authorisation from an American Government website in advance three days beforehand.
So far more than 70,000 Britons have done so.
But there are fears that some passengers especially those who are not computer literate will not have done so.
'There could be problems for people who don't fill out their ESTA forms and we want to avoid that situation,' said a spokesman for the American Embassy in London.
'We are trying to make sure that everybody gets on the plane. But people should fill out the form right now.'
For the next few weeks passengers will be allowed to board as before and be allowed to fill out the information on a green card provided by the airlines during the flight.
The decision to implement the scheme gradually is intended to avoid serious disruption at airports.
But the leeway, which is being offered to citizens of Britain and other countries covered by the American visa waiver scheme, will not be indefinite.
The passengers' watchdog urged the American authorities not to take a tough line on the travelling public when the new system begins operating.
'We understand that we have to comply with this,' said Simon Evans, chief executive of the Air Transport Users Council.
'People have paid a lot of money for these flights and I hope the Americans will allow people on board aircraft and give passengers some leeway until the system beds down.'
Airlines are hoping to avoid serious problems when the new scheme comes into operation.
'We believe awareness regarding the new entry arrangements to the US is fairly high,' said an American Airlines spokesman.
'This should that mean the majority of travellers will arrive prepared and their will be minimal, if any, disruption.'
U.S. pushes new entry system one last time
By Setsuko Kamiya
The Japan Times, January 9, 2009