Stupid Government Tricks: Foreign Visitors Edition

Kiwi Flyer reports on the Alice in Wonderland world of ESTA, the US government’s “Electronic System for Travel Authorization.”

Despite the initial promises of saving travellers time by replacing the green I94-W visa waiver entry form, for most the ESTA application is needed as well as an I94-W form.

…I was on one of the trial flights the other day.

…I received a card “I-94W is going paperless” which explains to any check in or gate agent who expects to find a green stub from the I-94W that I legitimately don’t have one.

Hopefully it will be paperless for everyone soon.

When ESTA was introduced, the legislation provided for future introduction of a fee for cost recovery. So far, ESTA is still free (unless you go to one of the many fake sites to register). However, a $10 tourism promotion fee will be charged later this year (date not yet confirmed).

When the fee is charged, effectively ESTA will have transitioned to become a visa, albeit lower cost than regular US visas.

So the paperless system requires paper so that foreign residents and teach US immigration officials about proper new procedures.

And lest we forget, in order to promote tourism, we are going to charge more for tourists to come here.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Since US doesn’t have exit immigration, the card is for airline check in staff and gate agents who might otherwise be confused about the lack of green stub (I94W departure form).

    I had some reports from visitors to USA that when the paperless trial commenced some immigration officers were not trained on the changes. However, the officer I got the other day was completely up to speed.

  2. If something is paperless, it should cost less than the paper version it replaces (presumably the Gov’t types in all the handwritten info on the current I-94s??).
    Having made it just about as unpleasant as possible to visit the USA, our Government now wants to hit people with yet another tax. All the good works of people who work in the tourist industry – and friendly citizens generally – are being let down by the people we pay in DC. Crazy.

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