Millions of people visit the United States of America every year. Some of them do it for business, and some just enjoy traveling for leisure. No matter what the aim of your visit to the US is, you need authorization to legally come to this country. So what you should take care of before traveling to the US? Beside the air ticket and your suitcase, you should not forget ESTA.
It is very much unlikely that you plan a trip to the US and haven’t heard about ESTA yet, but still. ESTA means Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This system selects visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver (VWP) program.
Visa Waiver (VWP) program allows some tourists to visit the United States without a visa.
This program is available only to citizens of certain countries, including most of Europe, as well as Australia and others.
As of the end of 2018, 38 countries are taking part in the program. You can see the full list here. The citizens of these countries do not need any visa to the US.
They just have to fill in the ESTA form before the trip.
Many people wonder when it is a good time to apply for ESTA. Should it be done much beforehand, or is this nothing to worry about and can be done just hours before the departure?
Actually, in some cases (especially if you correctly fill in everything and provide all the necessary information) the application can be processed in a few minutes.
But sure it depends on many factors, especially on the number of applications at this or that moment. So, you should know that the process of obtaining an ESTA entry permit may take up to 72 hours.
After your application has been approved (approval will need to be printed out), you can take board the plane and leave any suitable time!
Knowing that ESTA permit is valid for 2 years, it would be quite wise to apply for it weeks before the trip itself. So, if your application is not approved for some reason, you will have enough time to apply for a visa, and your travel plans will not be destroyed.
Applying for ESTA is not anything like rocket science and knowing what you are required to write, it will take you only a few minutes to fill in. So, you will definitely be asked to file in the following information:
- Your contact details
- The number of one of your valid credit cards (needed to process payment for the application)
- Your passport (valid, not expired and indicating the citizenship of a Visa Waiver Program country)
- Certain details concerning your work.
NOTE: From April 1, 2016, applicants who have a valid ESTA permit and travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must have a valid biometric passport.
ESTA was developed to make it easier for travelers from certain countries to come to the US. That is why it includes quite simple steps which do not take much time and efforts.
You only do the following things:
- Fill in the ESTA form
- Double check the information you have entered as to make sure it’s correct and mistakes won’t cause any additional problems
- Pay the application fee and submit the application itself
- Wait for some time (from a few minutes to 72 hours) and receive approval.
ESTA permit is valid for 2 years. You can travel to the US any time and as often as you wish during this period. But you should stay there no longer than 90 days in a row, no matter if you come for business or as a tourist.
However, if you received or changed your passport, or your first name, your last name, gender, or citizenship, you must apply for a new ESTA permit before another trip to the USA.