From 12th January it is compulsory to apply for the US Visa Waiver Programme before you fly.
‘Visitors to the PGA Merchandise Show later this month and the Golf Industry Show in New Orleans early in February need to be aware that there has been an important change in the formalities which need to be completed in order to gain entry to the United States.
The details are explained on the website of the UK Foreign Office:
The US has announced new measures that require all those travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme to provide details online 72 hours prior to travel this is known as an Electronic Travel System or ESTA. Although these will be on a voluntary basis as of August 2008, it will become compulsory for all travellers from 12th January 2009.
For more information and to apply online visit the following website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. An ESTA once obtained will be valid for a period of two years, or the validity of the travellers passport (whichever is shorter).
At present, US authorities do not propose to levy a charge for this service, although they have reserved the right to consider doing so in the future. If you do not have Internet access a third party, such as a relative or travel agent, may apply for the ESTA for you.
However, you will still be responsible under the law for the questions answered on your behalf. Obtaining an ESTA should not be confused with the separate requirement, which will continue to apply, for you to provide your airline or carrier with details of your passport, country of residence and address of your first night’s accommodation in the US.