The United States is phasing out its requirement for visitors to manually complete the green CBP Form I-94W paper arrival/departure document. This applies to air or sea travelers who are citizens of countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), and who have received prior travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The work to eliminate the form started as a result of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) collaborated with the airlines, other federal agencies and industry partners to conform to the new requirements. Since January 12, 2009 all nationals of VWP countries have been required to apply for a travel authorization via ESTA before traveling to the United States. This will affect over two-thirds of overseas travelers to the United States.
Information collected from other automated sources related to the passenger’s itinerary (APIS, US-VISIT, admission record, the machine readable passport, etc.) have enabled DHS to create an electronic I-94W record for travelers that seek admission at U.S. air and sea ports of entry.
In addition to the security features made possible by ESTA, as outlined in the DHS press release <http://www.dhs.gov/ynews/releases/pr_1274366942074.shtm>, the new electronic I-94W document will offer processing advantages:
Enhanced Data integrity (elimination of manual keypunching and interpretation of handwritten entries),
Quicker data turn-around for reporting purposes, in the long term,
Enhanced matching of arrival to departure records, and
Continued use of all data fields included in the current I-94W form.
After a successful pilot program, the automated processing is now being implemented for all carriers at all U.S. international gateway airports. Total coverage is expected by the end of this summer.
The I-94W forms will continue to be required at land borders; in case of system outages; and when deemed operationally necessary. Also, the I-94 white paper document, for citizens from non-Visa Waiver Program countries remains in effect for the foreseeable future.
As a result of DHS/CBP cooperation with airlines and all federal users there is currently a seamless transition to the automated system. OTTI and DHS/CBP will continue to deliver international arrivals data to industry users.