ESTA Travel Blogs

06 Jan

Travel authorization update: what is the EVUS?

We can’t deny that many of the terms and acronyms associated with US travel legislation can get a little confusing! As well as ESTA, VWP, CBP, B1 and B2, we now have an extra term to add to the recipe: EVUS.

This stands for the Electronic Visa Update System, and will be very important for some travelers, but it should certainly not be confused with ESTA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, as the two are not related. Allow us to explain…

The EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System) is a specific system that will be launched in October, and will become mandatory at the end of November 2016. For the time being, it will only be relevant to people from the People’s Republic of China. This means that if your passport is issued by any other country, you do not need to worry about the EVUS just yet.

The purpose of the EVUS is to update traveler information for Chinese citizens who hold B1 or B2 visas, with maximum validity (which is ten years). For Chinese citizens applying for a US visa, they will also need to enroll into EVUS before traveling to the USA. Bear in mind, at the moment China is not a member country of the Visa Waiver Program – the program that allows citizens of certain countries to visit the USA as a tourist, or on business, without the need for a visa. This means that all Chinese citizens are required to have US visas in order to travel to the USA.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will start accepting EVUS enrollments around mid-October. These early enrollments will be of a voluntary nature, and enrollment will not become compulsory until 29 November, 2016. As of this date, Chinese citizens traveling to the USA will need to be enrolled into EVUS in order to travel to the USA, and even to get a boarding pass.

The reason behind the EVUS is to ensure up-to-date information on passengers. When travelers are granted ten-year visas, it’s understandable that certain details will change over time. As national security and accurate information on visitors in the country are paramount, this is simply a measure to reinforce the stability and reliability of the existing visa systems. It’s also important to note that Chinese citizens with visas that had an initial validity of less than ten years are not required to enroll with EVUS.

The USA naturally wants to make all travel authorization processes as easy as possible, while being thorough and allowing for appropriate traveler vetting. This is the reason the ESTA is in place for citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) member countries. Like with ESTA, those who are required to enroll into EVUS will be able to do so online, and given the fluidity and easy of ESTA, it is likely to be a quick and easy process.

As with the ESTA, it will also be possible to fill out the update form on behalf of another traveler (a friend or a relative, for instance). Nevertheless, the accuracy of the information will always be the responsibility of the traveler.

Despite the fact that, at the moment, those who are eligible to apply for ESTA do not need to concern themselves with EVUS, there is one key similarity between both processes: their validity period. ESTA authorization is valid for two years from the moment the traveler receives approval (via email). This validity is voided if the traveler’s passport expires during these two years, in which case a new online ESTA application is required, given the fact that the information provided is specific to a passport that is no longer valid. The same goes for the EVUS; given that the fundamental purpose of the EVUS is to provide up-to-date information on the traveler, this information needs to be updated periodically. So, after two years, the traveler will need to re-enroll into EVUS before traveling to the USA again.

Unlike the ESTA, the EVUS does not involve a 90-day travel period. This is because the ESTA is a form of travel authorization, whereas the EVUS is simply a required component that complements the traveler’s travel authorization, which, in this case, is a US visa. Travelers visiting the USA with a US visa are subject to the length of stay determined by the visa itself.


Do I require both the ESTA and the EVUS?

No. At the moment, the EVUS is specific to travelers from the People’s Republic of China. Following the initial period of the system’s implementation, it’s fairly likely that the CBP will employ the same system for citizens of other countries. If successful, it is possible that it will one day be used internationally, but it is important to understand that it would only be relevant to those applying for visas (or those that already have visas).

Given that the ESTA is not a visa, but rather a system used to automatically vet passengers and avoid the need for a visa, no travelers will be required to have both an ESTA and the EVUS.


Can Chinese citizens apply for ESTA?

At the moment, the People’s Republic of China is not among the 38 member states of the Visa Waiver Program. This means that Chinese citizens need to apply for a US visa if they want to visit the USA, regardless of the purpose of their visit. The visa application process is separate to the EVUS enrollment. Provided the traveler is granted their US visa, they will then have to enroll with EVUS separately and provide their additional information.

Nevertheless, citizens of Taiwan (the Republic of China) are eligible to apply for online ESTA authorization. This is because Taiwan is among the 38 Visa Waiver Program member countries, having been incorporated into the program in 2012.

As for citizens of Hong Kong and Macau, they will be able to continue traveling to the USA as they currently do. However, if any travelers from Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau travel with passports issued by the People’s Republic of China and with ten-year B1 or B2 visas attached to this passport, they will be required to enroll with EVUS as of 29 November, 2016.


What information will be included on the EVUS enrollment?

Travelers who are required to enroll with EVUS will need to provide basic information, similar to that included on ESTA application forms. This will include all of the traveler’s passport information, other biographical and employment details, as well as some questions about travel history and the traveler’s destination. However, enrollment will not require the traveler to provide a photograph or fingerprints.


Extra things to bear in mind

As with the online ESTA application, the process takes very little time, and confirmation is practically immediate. Nevertheless, those who are required to enroll with EVUS are advised to do so at least one week before traveling to the USA. It’s also important to enroll with EVUS even if your details have not changed since initially being granted a US visa.


Will the ESTA be affected?

No. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization – ESTA – will not be affected by this new EVUS system. They are separate systems designed for different groups of travelers.

The ESTA process will not change: citizens of countries that form part of the Visa Waiver Program (currently 38 countries) are able to apply for ESTA online, as an alternative to applying for a US visa. The online ESTA application takes approximately ten minutes to complete, and requires the applicant to provide some personal details and answer some security questions. To complete the ESTA form, applicants will need to have their valid passport to hand, as well as a form of payment.

After submitting the online ESTA application, passengers will be informed of their approval status via email within 24 hours. Generally, this process takes under one hour – the vast majority of applications are approved, although they can also be ‘pending’ or ‘denied’. If an ESTA application is denied, this is most likely because the traveler needs to apply for a visa in order to travel to the USA.

With the ESTA, travelers can visit the USA as tourists, or on business, for periods of up to 90 days at a time. The ESTA authorization lasts for two years, at which point travelers can re-apply for ESTA, following the same online process as before.

It’s still very early days for the EVUS, but it’s not to be confused with the ESTA or the Visa Waiver Program. If you have an ESTA or are eligible to apply for ESTA, you’ve got no reason to enroll with the new Electronic Visa Update System.


Happy travels!