The United States is a fantastic place to visit for tourism, business, and other reasons such as medical care.
If you want to go to the USA by air or sea or just pass through the country, you may be wondering if you need a visa or an ESTA and if you are eligible to get one. But don’t worry, we’ve got your back!
In this guide, we will explain what an ESTA is, if you need it, what are the requirements, how to get it and other details, so keep reading. Everything you need to know is here!
What is an ESTA?
ESTA (also known as ESTA USA) stands for “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” and it is a mandatory digital travel authorisation for the United States, rather than a paper document. It allows you to travel there without a visa. This also applies to transits via the USA.
This type of authorization is a safety measure put into action by the US Customs and Border Protection. This way, all arriving visitors can be checked in advance and unwanted travellers can be stopped from boarding a ship or flight to the USA.
Transport companies look up the passport number of the passenger and travellers without travel authorization are denied entry.
You can apply for an ESTA online with the help of Visa First and the process is much faster and easier than applying for a US visa.
ESTA is also considered an automated system that determines eligibility to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
No, ESTA is not a visa, even though sometimes people refer to it as an ESTA visa. Individuals travelling with valid visas do not need to apply for an ESTA.
What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is governed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and gives permission to nationals or citizens of eligible countries to travel to the USA for tourism or business, and stay 90 days or less without a visa.
Which countries are eligible for an ESTA?
Who needs an ESTA?
ESTA USA is needed if you are planning a business trip, a tourist visit or to transit through the USA. Underage children must also have their own ESTA. You don’t need it if you possess a US visa or a US passport.
While in the US on an ESTA, you are not allowed to work for an American employer but you can work remotely if your company is located outside of the USA.
An ESTA will not be applicable if you want to study in the United States, invest in American companies or perform journalistic activities.
What is the eligibility for ESTA?
you hold a passport from an eligible country
you currently don’t own a visitor’s visa to the USA
you are planning to visit the USA for 90 days or less
you are intending to visit the USA for business or tourism
you have no criminal record
How long is an ESTA valid for?
From the moment it is granted, an ESTA is valid for two years (unless your passport expires before that) and you are permitted to visit the US an unlimited number of times during this period.
How long can you stay in the USA with an ESTA?
Each stay in the United States is limited to 90 days at a time. You are also allowed to go to Mexico, the Caribbean islands and Canada within this time frame.
If you want to stay more than 3 months, you will have to apply for and obtain a visa before your trip.
When your passport expires, your ESTA will expire as well.
What is the impact of COVID-19 on ESTA applications?
You can still apply for an ESTA despite the coronavirus pandemic. However, the immigration service can reject visitors, if there is a potential health risk.
For the time being, this is applicable if you have been to any European country in the last two weeks prior to your trip.
That being said, you should be aware of the up-to-date coronavirus measures in the USA, before you apply for your ESTA. You can also get in touch with a representative of Visa First who can answer all your questions.
Are there any important rules and requirements regarding the ESTA application?
Yes, there are.
You will have to prove on arrival that you are planning to leave the USA in the near future by showing a transit or return ticket.
You will need to apply for an ESTA if you are planning a trip to Alaska, the American Virgin Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico or the Northern Marianas
Even if you have a valid ESTA or US visa, your entry into the USA could be refused by Homeland Security at any time if you are suspected of endangering the public order and safety
Travellers who have visited Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, or Somalia after March 10, 2011, or who have ever had the nationality of one of these countries, are not eligible for an ESTA.
In order to apply for an ESTA, you will be required to provide a number of documents. Some of them may include:
completed application form
What is the cost of an ESTA?
The cost of an ESTA with Visa First is €50.
Is an ESTA valid for multiple transfers/transits?
Transits and transfers through the United States are only permitted if you have an ESTA, a visa, or an American passport.
You can use your ESTA multiple times for transits and transfers. An ESTA is valid for two years unless your passport expires earlier.
The good news is that your transfer ESTA is also valid for other travel purposes that we discussed above and you are allowed to leave the airport. This does not mean that a transfer ESTA is a different type of authorization, it means that you have selected “transfer” in the application form and in practice, it’s the same document.
You will have to submit a new application for your ESTA or if your passport expires.
How long does it take to process my ESTA application?
An ESTA application is usually processed within 72 hours (three days) after it has been fully submitted.
This is why it’s important that your ESTA application is submitted as soon as you decide to travel to the USA.
How to apply for an ESTA?
The easiest way to apply for your ESTA is with Visa First. With over 17 years of experience, Visa First remains at the forefront of the visa services industry worldwide.
Instead of worrying about the paperwork, our experts will handle your application from start to finish. All you have to do is fill out our short online application form, provide us with the necessary documentation and our team will take care of the rest.