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    Travelling to the US? Don't forget ESTA

    Golden Gate BridgeOn Monday (12th Jan 09) a new entry system for travel into the United States became mandatory, meaning British citizens could be detained and sent home by US immigration officials if they don't register online before their trip.The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) requires UK nationals to complete a form 72 hours before flying, which can be accessed via www.visitusa.org.uk/visitors/esta.aspx. It will then be approved by the US Department of Homeland Security, and will be valid for two years.This applies to all travellers using the Visa Waiver Program, which allows British passport holders who intend to stay in American for less than 90 days to enter without a visa. According to a report in the Times, the US embassy in London said that 99.6 per cent of those who've registered so far have been approved - most within four seconds.ESTA replaces the old green forms traditionally distributed during flights, which asks for passport details and the address of where you will be staying during your visit. Registration is also required for anyone in transit at a US airport, and for babies and children.According to quotes from British Airways staff in the Telegraph, the new regime hasn't caused any major problems so far, but that might be because a brief grace period has been set, so passengers who were unaware of the new requirements have still been allowed entry.In theory, this should be a much more efficient and hassle-free way of ensuring a smooth trip, with a reduced risk of terrorism and fewer delays at customs. But without high profile warning of the new system, I predict there'll be more than a few disappointed holidaymakers coming home sooner than expected in the next few weeks (a survey by Travelsupermarket.com has suggested that 57 per cent of Britons are still unaware of the new requirements).So spread the word to anyone planning to visit the States this year, and don't be too spontaneous with that last-minute weekend break - remember you need to fill in that ESTA form THREE DAYS before you go

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