Three years ago I visited the US. Security at Newark was a little slow, but I just showed them my Swedish passport and sailed in. You see, there was a visa waiver agreement back then. And I thought there still was until 1½ hours before I was scheduled to take off to the US again this morning.

I don’t know if any country still has that agreement with the US. Sweden doesn’t, and I found this out at the luggage drop. There’s an on-line application routine for the visum (sing.) that often works really swiftly, but in my case it didn’t. It’s a black box and nobody knows how it works. So I missed my flight and would by rights have been forced to buy a new ticket since the one I had wasn’t rebookable. But KLM air has this semi-official policy of helping people who fall afoul of the new visa rules. So I’m just going to be a few hours late to Minneapolis. Security theatre…


  1. #1 armillary
    April 6, 2011

    You suspicious person you. Thanks for telling me – I’m visiting the US this autumn, and would have fallen afoul of this.

  2. #2 Thinker
    April 6, 2011

    As a community service, this is a link to the website you need to visit two weeks or so before travelling to apply.

    The approval comes through immediately (assuming you have no “issues”), and I have found (subjectively, not scientifically) that US immigration proceeds a bit faster with the new system than with the old one…

  3. #3 Thomas Ivarsson
    April 6, 2011

    I was in the same situation one month ago. “You need an ESTA permit to enter USA”, I was told at the counter. My flight was delayed to I had the time to fix this at Kastrup.

  4. #4 SM
    April 6, 2011

    We Canadians started to need passports to enter the US a few years ago. Since there are -buildings- that straddle the border (and three parts of the US whose only land border is with Canada) this is awkward for many people. So I sympathize. We’ve also bought backscatter X-ray machines for no clear reason other than looking like we’re doing something.

  5. #5 Bob Carlson
    April 6, 2011

    According to this US State Department web page 36 countries, including Sweden, still participate in the Visa Waiver Program, but “As of January 12, 2009, a valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to travel to the United States.” The “to” preceding travel seems as though it must be a typing error.

  6. #6 Rikard
    April 8, 2011

    Yeah, there are still visa waivers, it’s just that you have to register in ESTA before going. Let’s not make it any easier to visit there, shall we.

  7. #7 Jonathan Jarrett
    April 13, 2011

    If it’s any comfort, an ESTA lasts for two years. So keep hold of your ID and if you have to head back to the USA in that timespan you can just log into their website and update it, no more costs. I just did this for a conference there next month, when in travelling to the previous year’s one I had an experience very similar to yours…

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