I guess this is just a quick heads up to any Aussies out there who, like me, have to endure the less-than-desirable process of sorting out Visa waivers every time you enter the US.
Whether it proves to be an improvement on the current system (the paper based, green I-94W cards) or not, as of January 2009, Aussies will be required to go online and fill out a similar form AT LEAST 72 hours before their departure.
As the official US Consulate site in Australia explains:
Once the electronic system becomes mandatory, on January 12, 2009, all travelers entering the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP will need to receive an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or cruise ship.
In theory, if you fail to complete the online process within the 72 hour time period before you fly, and therefore miss out on obtaining your electronic travel authorisation, the airlines who can check for this authorisation against your passport details, can refuse your boarding of their flights. My question is, for those people who have to get to the US on very short or emergency notice, where does this leave them??? Hmmmmmm…
On the plus side, however, it seems once you have received an authorisation, it’s good for two years so long as you don’t change your gender or name, or get a new passport.
So don’t say you weren’t warned. I’ve no doubt travel agents and online booking websites will start conveying this information to customers from now on, but if you need want further information, check out the Australian US Consulate website.