I was quite surprised when I read Gemma O'Doherty's recent article 'Star And Gripes: the latest Hurdle To Entering The US' (Irish Independent, Weekend, July 19) in which she discussed the new ESTA on-line registration system and suggested the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was proposing the use of "security bracelets" for air passengers to the US. After contacting DHS, I found out that there is more of a story behind the story.
The United States welcomes visitors. We want tourists to come see our beautiful country. We want business people to come and pursue their business interests.
ESTA, the new electronic system for travel authorisation, is simply filling out a form on-line that would have been filled out on the airplane. I have seen the form and it is the same as the form that is currently being filled out by passengers as they sit on the airplane.
The good thing is that this form is valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. You don't even have to fill out the form yourself. Your travel agent can do it for you. It's actually easier than the current system.
With regard to the so-called security bracelets, the US Department of Homeland Security made it clear that it has never pursued security bracelets for airline passengers. This concept was never funded by DHS. DHS does not support the use of such security bracelets and has not pursued the development of such technology. In short, this seems to be an urban myth that has taken a life of its own.
We understand that today's air travellers often feel harried as they make it to their destinations. Like many countries in the world, the United States is working hard to make air travel as smooth and hassle-free as possible, while maintaining the highest standards for security and safety.
If your readers have any questions about the new ESTA program, they can go to www.cbp.gov/esta.
US EMBASSY, DUBLIN 4