Mainichi: USA to require visitors to register online before boarding planes


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Hi Blog. This is only tangentally related to (it’s about traffic going from Japan to the US), but as the Americans do policywise, so often does the Japanese Government. Here we have the last gasps of the Bush Administration trying to stick it to foreign visitors (fingerprinting and photography weren’t enough; the GOJ then copied it and went even farther), what with requiring people now to register online before they visit, or even get a boarding pass. As Japanese officials mildly protesteth (see Japan Times article below), the USG didn’t even bother with much of a publicity campaign for their program, leaving the burden on the airlines and the airports to deal with it. Let’s hope 1) this really puts off people travelling to the US, and 2) the GOJ doesn’t feel the itch to copy. Three articles follow — the Mainichi in English and Japanese, then the Japan Times with even better information. Arudou Debito in Sapporo


Travelers to U.S. required to register online prior to boarding under new system

(Mainichi Japan) December 17, 2008, Courtesy of Jeff K

Visitors traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program will be required to register online prior to boarding from next January under the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Due to concerns that passengers unaware of the system will be unable to board their flights — largely due to a lack of proactive action by the Japanese government — the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan (SAAJ) will be launching a new PR campaign to inform passengers about the system at Narita Airport on Thursday.

Currently, visitors are required to complete a visa exemption form while en route to declare any drugs possessed or criminal convictions. The ESTA — which will come into operation from Jan. 12 — will require prospective travelers to complete a survey of 20 or so similar questions online at least 72 hours prior to boarding. Carriers will then check each passport by its passport number to ensure the holder has permission to travel to the U.S. Those without authorization will be refused a boarding pass.

Once issued, the holder is allowed to travel to the U.S. for two years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.

There are already computer terminals allowing Internet access at Narita Airport; however, there are no plans to have any more installed prior to the introduction of ESTA. And while Japan Airlines (JAL) and All Nippon Airways (ANA) have carried an explanation of the new system on their Web sites since July, fears over late applications or ignorance of the new system have prompted SAAJ to launch a campaign of leaflets and announcements at Narita Airport on Thursday.



米入国審査:ネットで事前申請 忘れると搭乗不可--来月12日から


毎日新聞 2008年12月16日 東京夕刊

米国にビザを持たず短期滞在(90日以内)で入国する場合、来年1月12日から、一部を事前にインターネットで申請して承認を受ける制度が導入さ れる。しかし、この事前手続きが旅行者らにあまり知られていないため、空港に来て旅客機に搭乗できないなどのトラブルが続出することが懸念されている。国 も積極的に広報しておらず、国内航空会社でつくる「定期航空協会」は18日、成田空港でPR活動を行う。【窪田弘由記】





米当局は搭乗の72時間(3日)前までに手続きするよう求めている。航空各社は搭乗手続きの際、承認されているかをパスポートからチェックし、出 発時間までに承認がない客は搭乗させない方針。成田空港にはインターネットに接続できる端末が一部には用意されてはいるが、航空各社は現時点では事前申請 のために新たな端末は置かない方針。

出発直前の申請では認められないケースも出るといい、「空港で客とトラブルになる可能性もある」と懸念する。日本航空と全日空は7月から順次、自 社のホームページでシステムの説明をしている。しかし、旅行客らの反応は鈍く、制度の浸透に不安があることから、定期航空協会は18日午前9時、成田空港 第1ターミナルで客室乗務員らがリーフレットを配って呼びかける。


米国電子渡航認証システムの導入は、01年9月の米同時多発テロを受けて制定された「9・11委員会勧告実施法」に基づき義務づけられた。米国土 安全保障省は概要を今年6月に発表。チャートフ長官は「渡航者が脅威をもたらすかどうかを、航空機に搭乗する前あるいは船舶が入港する前に審査すること で、我が国と旅行者の安全を強化する」と説明。義務化を前に、8月からは自主的な申請も受け付けている。米国の駐日大使館も、大使館のサイトで概要説明し ている。【花岡洋二】



New U.S. travel authorization plan has airlines on edge before launch
By ALEX MARTIN, Staff writer

The Japan Times Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008 new border control system the United States will start using to screen short-term foreign travelers in January remains relatively unknown less than a month before launch, and people in the airline and tourism industries are worried the lack of awareness will wreak havoc at airports nationwide.

The new Electronic System for Travel Authorization requires travelers from Visa Waiver Countries who wish to stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less to use the Internet to apply for permission to enter the country three days before departure. Travelers with visas are not affected.

Those who come to the airport without ESTA authorization are likely to be forced to reschedule their flights or cancel, which is causing growing concern among airlines and travel agencies.

The system takes effect Jan. 12 and will replace the written application process used by those seeking visa-free stays. It will be valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires.

Although the U.S. Department of Homeland Security initially announced plans for the ESTA system in June, public awareness still appears low, airlines and travel agencies said Wednesday.

“Airlines have been conducting PR activities through their Web sites and in-flight magazines, but it still seems little known to most people,” said Toshiya Shimada of the Scheduled Airlines Association of Japan.

The application is about 20 questions long and asks applicants if they have a criminal record or a history of drug abuse, and requests other basic biographical information. It must be submitted no later than 72 hours prior to departure

Shimada said the airline group, which includes Japan Airlines Corp. and All Nippon Airways Co., will distribute leaflets Thursday at Narita airport to boost awareness of the new system because the U.S. government doesn’t appear to be doing much to get the word out.

“We’d have appreciated it if the American Embassy had conducted a large-scale publicity campaign, but that doesn’t seem to be happening,” Shimada said, emphasizing that airlines stand to be the hardest hit by any confusion arising from ESTA.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it has held briefings, two press conferences and several TV interviews in Japan to explain ESTA to the Japanese media and the travel agencies. It also said it has seen a noticeable bounce in advance applications and is encouraging travelers to prepare in advance.

Naoko Shimura of travel agency H.I.S. Co. agreed with Shimada and said the ESTA Web site itself threatens to pose difficulties for travelers with little computer skills.

“Since the online authorization involves personal information, we generally have our customers fill it out by themselves,” she said, noting the elderly and those unaccustomed to the Internet may find the process difficult.

According to the U.S. Embassy’s Web site, ESTA approval will be almost instantaneous in most cases. But in cases where applications are left pending, travelers will have to check the ESTA Web site for updates on their applications for the next 72 hours.

If an application is denied, it will prohibit the passenger from traveling under the VWP but will not affect one’s visa eligibility.

In the case of last-minute applications, Narita International Airport employee Eiichiro Takasu said Internet access is available through the airport’s wireless LAN network, provided that travelers have computers and a valid Internet service provider.

“JAL and ANA said they would provide their own PCs, although I’m unaware of the situation with other airlines,” he said.

15 comments on “Mainichi: USA to require visitors to register online before boarding planes

  • I heard about this a few months ago and it sounds very similar to the situation with Australia. I don’t see what the problem is. The only real difference I can see is that Australia went from the old system of requiring a visa (had to apply at embassy etc) to this system on the internet whereas the USA went temporarily to a system of filling out the application on the plane in between.

    As for the advertising I don’t see what the big issue is either. Any time you buy tickets for Australia from JAL, ANA etc they include a piece of paper reminding you to apply either on line or through the travel agent.

  • What’s next? Forcing people to have a blood test before boarding a plane in case they’ve injected themselves with explosive fluid? Handcuffing every passenger to their seat during the entire flight so they don’t punch the pilots? Putting people in quarantine for blowing their nose in the airport?

    The situation is getting scarier by the year. And private interests are somehow always benefiting from every new paranoia du jour. Hmm.

  • “The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo said it has held briefings, two press conferences and several TV interviews in Japan to explain ESTA to the Japanese media and the travel agencies. It also said it has seen a noticeable bounce in advance applications and is encouraging travelers to prepare in advance.”

    Obviously didn’t realize that you need to hire a geinojin talento to get your message through…or have it appear on any TV station.

  • Is this not something that would be best done at the time of booking (before confirmation and payment being rendered)?

    It may make the process a little lengthier in the booking agent’s office but it seems would save a lot of hassle in the long run. And if applicants were to be refused entry for some reason it would allow them to cancel their bookings in advance rather than be left with their ‘luggage’ flapping in the wind days before departure.

    Are airlines going to refund fares for passengers unable to travel due to restricted entry if they (the passengers) are only made aware of the circumstances a short time before scheduled departure?

  • “I heard about this a few months ago and it sounds very similar to the situation with Australia.”

    As an Australian, I’ve never heard of this scheme before. I’m honestly in shock over this news.

  • This is the resaon I’ve never visited Oz, and will not visit the USA again, until this unacceptable burden is lifted. Jpaan should indeed introduce the same thing–but only for Americans and Australians (the say way that only Americans should be fingerprinted). Tit for tat is fine. The problem is that the racist Japanese government cannot distinguish between Americans and otehr peoples (which is why we’re all just “gaijin” to them).
    The airlines and tourist industries will lose much money over this, inevitably.

  • I’m waiting for the day that they just scan our eyeballs like in Minority Report, before boarding a plane, walking into a subway, step into a car… what may seem like science fiction now is already in the wicked minds of government bureaucrats/control freaks today..

  • Quote>As an Australian, I’ve never heard of this scheme before. I’m honestly in shock over this news.This is the resaon I’ve never visited Oz, and will not visit the USA again, until this unacceptable burden is lifted.<

    you will add Europe to your list in the near future. I feel sorry you to not be able to move anywhere.

  • A bit of paranoia from both sides, I see.
    But if they’re really trying to get you, it isn’t paranoia.
    So in the US government’s case, it isn’t really paranoia, is it?

    But Japan enacting similar schemes IS paranoid xenophobia. All terrorism and sickening crimes in Japan are committed by Japanese people anyway, right?

    As long as ticket agents or ticket websites incorporate it into the ticket-buying process, it should be smooth. You can even apply up to 2 years in advance without even having any concrete travel plans. So any J friends you know who might want to go to the US, tell them to apply right now just in case. Kind of like how we gaijin need to get a re-entry permit so it’s a good idea to just get one with your visa renewals [now THAT is a pointless scam, unless the point is making money for the Immigration department] but in reverrse.

    But seriously, if you object to this system, which is basically just turning the visa waiver into a usually-automatically granted quasi-visa [the 72 hour limit is in case you are determined to not be eleigible for an automatic approval, so probably only if you answer “Yes” to any of the questions asking of you have a serious communicable disease or a history of crime] you should also be objecting to the entire passport and ID systems in general.

    [Before going off half-cocked, please at least go to the ESPA website and read the info for yourself, never trust a news article that’s trying to make a point rather than inform completely]

    Funny thing is, given the screening questions, most politicians would probably get flagged for scrutiny. 😉

  • Actually this sounds reasonable to me, however the one drawback or weak point will be maintaining the security and integrity of the data. I believe that the fingerprinting requirement (for entrance to the US) should be removed and use this method in lieu of, with proper follow up to ensure that those entering the United States (on a longer term basis) are actually doing what they came to do (study, work, etc.).

    Fingerprinting would not have caught the 9/11 perpetrators however this type of procedure WITH FOLLOW UP would have prevented 9/11. This has been well documented in the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright.

    By the way does anyone have a link to the website where people are supposed to enter the data? I would be curious to see the questions.

  • Kakui Kujira says:

    As far as I understand it, the Australian system is different: You apply for the visa online and it’s free. It’s not an extra thing you do on top of applying for the visa. It’s applying for the visa itself.

  • Tony D,

    It has been around in Australia for several years. Here is the link to the site where you apply

    Can you explain where you see the difference. I understand in the Australian system you apply on line for an “Electronic Travel Authority” and the US is for a visa waiver. No matter what you call it though they both appear to be what is required to travel to the country (without an additional visa) and both are applied for on line. FYI the Australian ETAS is not free but some travel agents appear to be willing to include the charge as part of the ticket cost (based on my experience).

    As far as the comments on increased security / big brother I don’t see the validity of this comment when it is not long ago it was necessary to apply for visa’s for almost every country and is still required for many.

  • Excessive burden placing by US authorities on foreign travelers have already called off any possible plan of mine to visit US.

    A foreigner visitor is subject to (1) An interview by paranoid consular officer (2) Payments to obtain a visa to visit US (3) Paperwork (4) Unfair disclaimer: Visa doesn’t automatically grant you the right to enter US.

  • I’ve just been looking at the current version of the ESTA (I don’t know if the Obama administration made any changes, though). I really don’t see what makes this so burdensome. The questions are run-of-the-mill “have-you-ever-been-convicted”-type questions, probably the same that were asked on the paper application. No fee is involved, and it makes more sense to fill this sort of thing out *before* getting on the plane — after all, if you’re not admissible to the US, you really shouldn’t be on the plane in the first place. I don’t really think that I would have any problem filling this sort of thing out if I were traveling to a country that mandated it.

    The 72-hour lead time would be problematic, but I cannot find a single reference to this lead time on the ESTA website — in fact, they say that approval is usually almost immediate, so I doubt that most people would need to complete the ESTA that far in advance. About the closest I can find is this statement from the ESTA fact sheet at “Applicants who receive an Authorization Pending response will need to check the Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.” So while certain cases may take 72 hours, apparently most do not.

    Has anyone actually used this system? What was the experience like? Does anyone know if the Obama administration changed anything? (I’m guessing not, since the fact sheet I referred to above is dated November, before Obama took office.)

    If I were managing an international airport in an ESTA-affected country, I think I’d consider setting up a kiosk where people could complete this questionnaire if they had forgotten to do it sooner. Has anyone in fact seen this? It seems like a sensible idea.

    Kakui: The U.S. process is not extra on top of the visa either — in fact, it’s only for people who travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. So either you need ESTA or a visa — explicitly not both, according to what the ESTA instructions say.


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