U.S. Homeland Security has announced a regulation that will require travellers who do not need visas to enter the United States to register their details online with the U.S. Government at least three days before travel.
The new system, known as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation), was announced by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who said it would allow the US to screen visitors before they even get on the plane. The rule does not apply to U.S. citizens travelling overseas.
The online registration will be valid for two years, and will have to be completed by visitors from the 27 countries currently involved in the US Visa Waiver Programme, including Britain, most of Western Europe, Australia and Japan.
A further eight countries including Hungary, the Czech Republic and South Korea are expected to sign up for the programme later this year.
The US will begin to implement the system this year and it will be mandatory for visa-free travel by 12 Jan 2009.