Viewing cable 08VILNIUS972
Title: ESTA OUTREACH IN LITHUANIA

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
08VILNIUS9722008-11-18 12:53:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Vilnius
VZCZCXYZ0000
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHVL #0972/01 3231253
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181253Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY VILNIUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3076
RUEHWR/AMEMBASSY WARSAW PRIORITY 3731
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 7143
RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA PRIORITY 3521
RUEHFT/AMCONSUL FRANKFURT PRIORITY 3085
UNCLAS VILNIUS 000972 
 
SENSITIVE 
SIPDIS 
 
DEPARTMENT FOR CA/VO/F/P, CA/P, EUR/NB, EUR/PGI 
DHS FOR OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS, ICE OFFICE OF 
INTERNATIONAL 
AFFAIRS AND CBP OFFICE OF INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS 
 
E.O. 12958:  N/A 
TAGS: CVIS CMGT PREL KPAO KHLS EN LH
SUBJECT: ESTA OUTREACH IN LITHUANIA 
 
REF: SECSTATE 118460 
 
¶1.  (U) Summary.  Post has an aggressive outreach program underway 
for the Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA).  Post 
introduced the concept of ESTA in spring 2008, in anticipation of 
Lithuania's admission to the Visa Waiver Program.  Post intensified 
outreach efforts in fall 2008, when it became clear that Lithuania 
would qualify to join the Visa Waiver Program.  EmbOffs met with 
media representatives, government officials, the American Chamber of 
Commerce, travel industry representatives and the local American 
Citizen community to talk about ESTA and its benefits.  Some 
applicants report difficulties with the ESTA interface which does 
not yet have help available in Lithuanian language.  Post will 
continue targeted outreach efforts in the coming months.  End 
Summary. 
 
POST'S ESTA OUTREACH PROGRAM 
 
¶2.  (U) The following is a summary of Post's ESTA outreach 
activities: 
 
--  In spring 2008 the Consul gave a background interview at the 
U.S. Embassy in Vilnius on Visa Waiver and ESTA to press 
representatives from eight publications including the delfi web 
portal (the biggest internet news portal in the Baltic States with 
upwards of 860,000 users), Lithuanian Radio and Television (national 
broadcaster which captures 15% of the television-viewing audience) 
and BNS wire service.  The Consul provided detailed information on 
VWP and ESTA requirements to inform future articles and to combat 
misinformation in the press. 
 
--  In May 2008 ConOffs delivered a VWP and ESTA presentation to 
members of the American Chamber of Commerce at the Best Western 
Hotel in Vilnius.  The event was attended by about 50 
businesspersons, many of whom have business ties to the U.S. and 
travel frequently between Lithuania and the U.S. 
 
--  In September 2008 Post added information to the Embassy website 
about the VWP and ESTA including ESTA frequently asked questions 
(FAQs). 
 
--  On October 1, 2008 the Consular Section staff participated in an 
ESTA training session to prepare for ESTA inquiries from the public. 
 The Consular Section has an email address for consular inquiries. 
We receive and respond to a steady volume of ad-hoc email questions 
about ESTA.  We also assist ESTA applicants by phone. 
 
--  In October 2008 Post added extensive VWP and ESTA content to our 
website including the ESTA logo and updated FAQs based on local 
inquiries.  Since that time we have added weekly updates to our 
website with the latest ESTA guidance for new VWP participant 
countries. 
 
--  In October 2008 PAOff discussed ESTA on a Lithuanian public 
television program. 
 
--  On October 11, 2008 the Consul discussed VWP and ESTA at an 
American Citizen Town Hall meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius. 
Our local AmCit community is very interested in ESTA because many 
local Amcits have friends and family members who would like to take 
advantage of the VWP. 
 
--  On October 21, 2008 the Embassy sent a Diplomatic Note to the 
Ministry of Foreign Affairs to provide an overview of the VWP 
program and detailed information about ESTA. 
 
--  On October 21, 2008 - ConOffs sent a Warden Message to 200 
American Citizens living in Lithuania regarding VWP and ESTA: 
 
In order to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, Lithuanian 
citizens will be required to get authorization online with the 
Electronic System for Travel Authorization www.esta.cbp.dhs.gov). 
Initially, there will be no fee associated with registering. After 
completing the registration process, the ESTA system will inform 
passengers if they are authorized to travel visa waiver.  When a 
traveler receives an authorization from ESTA, it is valid for two 
years.  If authorization is not granted, passengers will be required 
to apply for a visa in order to visit the U.S.  We recommend that 
travelers seek authorization as soon as possible in order to give 
them plenty of time to apply for a visa, should their request for 
authorization be denied. 
 
--  On October 23, 2008 the Consul made an encore presentation about 
VWP and ESTA at an American Chamber of Commerce event "The Influence 
of Regional Security to the Business and Economic Environment" which 
was held at the Reval Hotel in Vilnius.  The event was well attended 
by 112 representatives of the Lithuanian business community as well 
as government officials including the President of the Republic of 
Lithuania Valdas Adamkus. 
 
--  On October 30, 2008 Department of Homeland Security Secretary 
Michael Chertoff visited Lithuania.  ConOffs organized a press 
conference at the Presidential Palace in Vilnius for the Secretary 
and the Lithuanian Minister of the Interior Regimantas Ciupaila. 
Secretary Chertoff took advantage of the opportunity to promote ESTA 
to Lithuanian travelers. 
 
--  On November 4, 2008 ConOffs held a press conference at the U.S. 
Embassy in Vilnius to discuss Visa Waiver and ESTA.  Eight media 
representatives attended the conference including BNS wire service, 
www.atn.lt (webportal), Lithuanian Radio and Television, and 
Lietuvos Zinios (newspaper with circulation of 20,000 readers). 
 
--  On November 7, 2008 Ambassador Cloud addressed a group of 
Ambassadors representing European Union (EU) member states at the 
French Embassy in Vilnius.  Ambassador Cloud made brief remarks 
about the VWP and ESTA and then responded to questions from the 
group including representatives from Austria, France, Greece, 
Hungary, and Ireland. 
 
--  On November 10, 2008 Post updated our website to include an 
advisory message about fake ESTA websites that was issued by the 
Department of Homeland Security.  We subsequently communicated this 
concern to airlines and travel agents. 
 
--   On November 13, 2008 ConOffs invited airline and travel agency 
representatives to the U.S. Embassy in Vilnius for a presentation on 
the VWP and ESTA.  Twenty-two travel industry representatives 
attended the presentation which was followed by a lively question 
and answer session.  After the meeting ConOffs sent an email to 
airline representatives with additional guidance for checking ESTA 
approvals at check-in. 
 
--   On November 14, 2008 the Consul gave an interview to Lietuvos 
Rytas (newspaper with circulation of 57,000 readers) in which he 
highlighted ESTA requirements for VWP travel. 
 
--  On November 14, 2008 PAOff participated in a taped interview in 
Lithuanian language for Lithuanian National Radio (250,000 
listeners) which was played during prime time on Monday November 
17th, the first day of Visa Waiver travel.  During the interview 
PAOff provided information about ESTA. 
 
--  On November 17, 2008 PAOff gave an interview about the VWP and 
ESTA in Russian language for Lithuanian National Radio.  This 
broadcast has listeners in Lithuania, Belarus and Latvia. 
 
--  On November 17, 2008 Post contacted the Vilnius Airport and 
local airlines Fly Lithuanian Airlines (FlyLAL) and Air Baltic to 
inquire about the first day of visa waiver travel.  All parties 
reported that passenger boarding went smoothly. 
 
EMERGING QUESTIONS ABOUT ESTA 
 
¶3.  (SBU) Over the course of our ESTA outreach program Post has 
identified a number of stumbling blocks in the ESTA process which 
have caused some confusion for the Lithuanian end-users and for 
ConOffs at Post. 
 
--  Lithuanian language instructions have not yet been added to 
ESTA.  When an end-user visits the ESTA website, the first question 
they see is a drop-down list to select language preference.  This 
has generated confusion for Lithuanian users because none of the 
language options apply to them.  Also many of the ESTA questions are 
quite technical and it is difficult to understand and respond 
appropriately in a second language. 
 
--  Post suggests that DHS consider enhancing ESTA to recognize if a 
traveler has a biometric e-passport based on the issue date of the 
travel document.  For example, all Lithuanian passports issued after 
August 28, 2006 meet VWP requirements.  If ESTA could decline 
authorization based on a non-compliant passport, then we could save 
a lot of hassle at the port of entry, lower potential turn-around 
costs for the airlines and create added value for the applicant. 
 
--  The ESTA question "Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa or 
entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?" is causing 
confusion.  We have received a number of inquiries from applicants 
who wonder if this question includes visas cancelled without 
prejudice (a common and innocuous occurrence).  It might be more 
clear to change the question to "... or had a U.S. visa revoked or 
canceled with prejudice." 
 
--  DHS advises travelers to apply for ESTA no less than 72 hours in 
advance of intended travel.  For cases in which a traveler does not 
receive an immediate approval, 72 hours is not enough time to make 
alternate arrangements.  Post suggests that travelers apply two 
weeks in advance of intended travel to allow time for processing of 
"pending" authorizations and to allow time for travelers with an 
ESTA refusal to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy. 
 
--  ESTA questions do not appear to address incidents of unlawful 
presence in the U.S. (9B2 refusals).  Unlawful presence is one of 
the most common hard refusals entered at Post.  Even with an ESTA 
approval in hand, travelers with an active 9B2 refusal are not 
admissible at the port of entry.  Post suggests that DHS add 
language to ESTA to determine if an alien has ever been present in 
the U.S. without legal status in order to avoid turn-around 
situations at the port of entry. 
 
--  ESTA refusals appear in the Consular NIV system as a category 
one hit.  Traditionally Post would not overcome an exact match 
category one hit without some type of advisory opinion.  Most ESTA 
refusals (so far) represent 214B concerns which can be overcome by 
an interviewing officer at Post.  In one case we had an applicant 
who responded "yes" to an ineligibility question in ESTA by mistake. 
 We believe these cases should also be resolved at Post.  We would 
appreciate some additional Department guidance on how to process and 
overcome category one ESTA refusals at Post. 
 
CONCLUSION 
 
¶4.  (U) Post will continue ESTA outreach in the coming months.  Our 
number one concern is that that Lithuanian language to be added to 
the site as soon as possible to facilitate applications. 
 
CLOUD