U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has announced that the new U.S. passport card may be used as a valid "List A" document to complete Form I-9 during the employment eligibility verification process to prove both identity and work authorization, including for E-Verify participants. The U.S. Department of State began producing passport cards on July 14, 2008, and has already received more than 350,000 applications. The passport card carries the same rights and privileges of the U.S. passport book and legally attests to the U.S. citizenship and identity of the holder. The passport card is a significantly cheaper, faster and more portable alternative to the traditional passport book. It can be used to enter the U.S. at all land and sea ports when arriving from Canada, Mexico, the Caribbean and Bermuda. The card may not be used to travel by air. First-time applicants can apply for a passport card at any of the 9,300 Passport Application Acceptance Facilities throughout the country. The cost is $45 for adults and $35 for children under 16. Adults with fully valid passport books issued within the last 15 years can apply for the card by mail using Form DS-82, at a cost of only $20. Additional passport card information can be found on the Department of State website at http://travel.state.gov/passport.

Visa Waiver Program’s ESTA Online Service Now Available

On June 3, 2008, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced an interim rule that will require foreign nationals traveling to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to register online with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) at least 72 hours before their visit. Although the ESTA requirements are not expected to become mandatory until January 12, 2009, VWP travelers can start registering online now using the ESTA website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. We strongly advise foreign nationals eligible for the VWP to register with the ESTA service as soon as they are aware of their travel plans to avoid any delays and resolve any issues that may arise. We have already noticed that the ESTA website is experiencing problems with pages not loading or refreshing. This is likely due to the significant volume of applicants trying to register. USCBP is expected to resolve this issue, but information about technical problems with the site can also be emailed to ESTAsupport@dhs.gov.

ESTA registration requires applicants to answer numerous questions similar to a standard U.S. temporary visa application, such as biographic data: first and last name, date of birth, sex, country of citizenship, country of residence, passport information and address while in the U.S. Applicants are also required to answer a series of questions, including questions on prior visa and entry denials and prior criminal convictions. Once the information is submitted, applicants are given an application number, which should be carefully recorded and printed out. In a matter of minutes, applicants receive either travel authorization, denial of travel authorization, or a notice that authorization is pending. ESTA will take 72 hours to make a determination on a pending authorization. Applicants are required to sign in to the website and check the status of their case using the application number. If travel authorization is denied, an applicant must apply for a visa stamp at a U.S. consulate before they will be allowed to come to the U.S. Applicants are not required to present a copy of the authorization in order to travel, though we would strongly advise all applicants to carry a copy of the printed authorization screen when traveling.

Once registered, travelers will be eligible to make multiple entries to the U.S. over a two-year period without

registering further. Travelers whose ESTA applications are approved, but whose passports will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA valid until the passport's expiration date. If a traveler obtains a new passport or there is a change to passport information (such as a change in name or other identifying biographical information), the individual will be required to apply for a new ESTA travel authorization.

DHS is expected to publish a notice in the Federal Register by mid-November 2008 announcing implementation of mandatory ESTA requirements on January 12, 2009. We will continue to monitor the status of this rule and will keep you updated as new information becomes available. Please contact one of the attorneys in our Immigration Group should you have any questions regarding the ESTA registration process in the meantime.