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Clarifying the e-Passport Requirement for Visa Waiver Program Travelers

Release Date: 
May 9, 2016

U.S. Customs and Border Protection initially announced required in August 2015

WASHINGTON—As part of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travelers traveling to the United States with an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) must have an e-Passport as of April 1, 2016. This requirement was initially announced in August 2015 and the Department of Homeland Security has been making a concerted effort to notify travelers since November 2015. Travelers from VWP countries are still eligible to travel to the United States without an e-Passport if they have a valid nonimmigrant visa. Travelers can apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

A graphic showing the difference between an e-Passport and a non e-Passport.

A graphic showing the difference between an e-Passport and a non e-Passport.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encourages travelers to check their passports and their current ESTA status to make sure they are in compliance with the requirement. As a reminder, if a traveler has acquired a new passport, they must submit a new ESTA application.

An e-Passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. E-Passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and the passport bearer.

ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining a traveler’s eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under VWP. If an ESTA application is denied, the traveler will be required to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The State Department website has more information about visa application procedures.

Visit CBP’s website for more information on the VWP and ESTA.

Last modified: 
February 9, 2017