The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an intelligence system used by the United States Department of Homeland Security for nationals of States benefiting from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which requires, among other things, the transmission of PNR data to the United States. They must complete Form I-942 online before entering the United States. Passengers who have not checked in at ESTA may be banned from flying, although they may be able to regularise their situation at the airport. The program has been in effect since August 2008, and became mandatory on January 12, 2009.
The European Commission is currently studying the possibility of using an equivalent system for third-country nationals not subject to visa requirements. The European system is called the European Travel Information and Authorisation System or ETIAS; it must be tested before its use is switched to nominal mode.
ESTA has been criticized by the G29, which notes that through this system the “United States moves its borders outside the United States”, creating a number of risks for individuals, whose access to the territory can be refused without them having the opportunity to meet face-to-face with a US government official.