Since 9/11, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has evolved from a travel facilitation program concerned about the threat of economic migration to one with more robust security standards that are designed to prevent terrorists and other criminal actors from exploiting the Program. The requirement for all VWP travelers to complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States was introduced by The Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007 (part of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, also known as the "9/11 Act") (Pub. L. No. 110-53) to improve the screening of individual travelers from VWP countries.

DHS must be agile and vigilant in continually adapting to evolving threats and hazards. DHS has not made a significant upgrade to the ESTA application in the six years that the system has been in operation, despite a significant evolution in the terrorist and criminal threats to the United States. DHS has determined that the additional data fields to the ESTA application will enhance DHS s ability to screen and more accurately and effectively identify travelers who pose a potential security risk to the homeland.