United States – Visa Waiver Program Travelers under ESTA Must Have e-Passport

United States – Visa Waiver Program Travelers under

In this GMS Flash Alert we report that certain travelers who intend to enter the U.S. with a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) must also have a valid e-Passport.


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, 2016.1  Significant changes to the VWP were included in an omnibus spending bill (H.R.2029)2 passed by the U.S. Congress on December 18, 2015.3  


This law places new restrictions on the VWP.   U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encourages travelers to check their passports and their current ESTA status to establish they are in compliance with the new requirement.  As a reminder, if a traveler has obtained a new passport, he or she must submit a new ESTA application. 

These and other constraints introduced by the amendments should be noted by global mobility professionals, immigration advisers, and those traveling to the United States under the VWP.  Should a traveler not be in compliance, he or she could be prevented from travelling into the U.S. and/or stopped at the port of entry.


The VWP permits individuals of certain pre-approved countries4 to enter the U.S. without first obtaining a visitor visa (B-1/B-2) while overseas.  Individuals seeking to benefit from the program must first apply for approval with CBP through the ESTA portal5.  If the traveler will be seeking entry into the U.S. after April 1, 2016, with a valid ESTA, the new regulations require that the traveler have a valid e-Passport.

Changes under the Amendments

Under the Terrorist Travel Prevention and Visa Waiver Program Reform, travelers who intend to enter the U.S. with a valid ESTA must also have a valid e-Passport.  If the traveler however intends to enter the U.S. with a non-immigrant visa and not ESTA, an e-Passport is not required.  See below as an example of a valid e-Passport. 

ESTA passport

Source: www.cbp.gov, “Clarifying the e-Passport Requirement for Visa Waiver Program Travelers.”

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.

In addition, the amendments include other changes to the VWP to promote enhanced information sharing of terrorism and criminal data, and the use of INTERPOL databases and notices for border screening purposes.  


1  For additional information, see: https://www.cbp.gov.  

2  To see H.R. 2029, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, on the Library of Congress’ Thomas Web site, click.   

3  For related coverage, see GMS Flash Alert 2016-022, February 4, 2016. 

4  For VWP countries listed on the State Department Web page click.  

5  For more on ESTA on the CBP Web site, click.  


For assistance with immigration-related matters pertaining to the United States, please contact your local qualified immigration counsel*, or the following immigration professional with the KPMG International member firm in Canada:


Charlene Quincey, U.S. Immigration practice leader, KPMG Law, Canada

Tel.: +1-416-943-0288 x266 



*  KPMG LLP (U.S.) does not provide any immigration services.  Please note, however, that KPMG LLP Law in Canada can assist clients with U.S. immigration matters.  

The information contained in this newsletter was submitted by the KPMG International member firm in Canada.

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GMS Flash Alert is a Global Mobility Services publication of the KPMG LLP Washington National Tax practice. The KPMG name and logo are trademarks used under license by the independent member firms of the KPMG global organization. KPMG International Limited is a private English company limited by guarantee and does not provide services to clients. No member firm has any authority to obligate or bind KPMG International or any other member firm vis-à-vis third parties, nor does KPMG International have any such authority to obligate or bind any member firm. The information contained herein is of a general nature and is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or entity. Although we endeavor to provide accurate and timely information, there can be no guarantee that such information is accurate as of the date it is received or that it will continue to be accurate in the future. No one should act on such information without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the particular situation.

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