Business travel

US immigration questions – ESTA

us border questionsThe US immigration visa waiver system may have moved into the electronic age but the questions they ask are timeless.

I spent most of my thirties globe trotting on behalf of my employer. The jet lag was knackering but hitting exotic bars and restaurants in cool places in the world was great. The US Visa Waver form was always handy – a piece of white paper (either white or green – you always had to fill in two forms). For some reason it made you feel as if you were being prioritised – don’t worry about a visa Tref, just fill in this form.

The one thing that always bemused was the list of questions you were asked. Basically “have you ever been a naughty boy and done something we wouldn’t approve of?” As if I was going to tell them if I was coming to spy on the country!

The imagination begins to take hold here. In a litigious country that is the US of A does the fact that you tell them that the purpose of your visit is to spy on them mean that when you are caught spying it is ok because you told them that was what you were there for. Or maybe the sentence is worse for those that falsely filled in the form on the basis that you lied on entry to the country.

This Friday I’m off to the USA for the first time in a decade. Speaking at the Genband Perspectives14 conference. Orlando. Course it’s not all going to be work. My panel session is on Thursday 12th but we need to get there for the previous Sunday for the welcoming cocktail reception around the pool followed by the networking golf match on the Monday (must remember to take my golf shoes). etc etc etc.

I’ve been around the block a few times and decided that to ensure I was on top form for the welcoming cocktail party I’d better get out there a couple of days beforehand to give my body a chance to adjust to the time zone. That way I can also take in Cape Canaveral and one or two other things I like to do when in the USA (as I recall) such as visiting a mall to take advantage of the lower prices. I haven’t missed the travel or the jet lag but am looking forward to this trip.

A few days ago I got an email from BA reminding me which flight I was on, fair play. It’s a good job I read it because the email told me I needed to apply online for an ESTA number – Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Hmm. This was a new one on me. I asked Twitter and Facebook whether I really needed to apply for a number and the crowd told me to go for it.

Didn’t take long although it did cost $14 for the privilege. Ah well. Another hidden cost of travel. What did amuse was the fact that the questions are exactly the same as they used to have on the visa waiver form – check out the screenshot above. One presumes that this is an efficiency measure. Better to reject me at the time of my application rather than have me go all the way to Orlando only to be told upon arrival that US authorities didn’t approve of people coming to spy on them and that I should turn right round and return whence I came. Dang! Y’all!

Now at this point, for the avoidance of doubt, I should reaffirm that I have no intention of performing an act of espionage when visiting the USA. If anyone tells me a state secret during the cocktail party the authorities can rest assured that I never remember anything when I’ve had a drink, especially jokes and when I play golf I remain focussed on getting the little white ball into the slightly bigger hole which isn’t as easy as it looks on the telly and demands my full concentration. The snow geese are arriving early in Orlando this summer…

Other really great travel posts:

The hazards of walking to and from work #runkeeper
Working Time
Internet routing pedestrian style

Trefor Davies

By Trefor Davies

Liver of life, father of four, CTO of, writer, poet,

One reply on “US immigration questions – ESTA”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.