What is ESTA Application?
The US is a popular destination for travellers, tourists, and business people. Usually, foreign visitors would need Visa to enter the country, but there is an alternative travel authorization method for travellers from 39 countries in the Visa Waiver Program. Those travellers can apply for ESTA, which grants them entry into the US. But what is ESTA?
What is Electronic System for Travel Authorization?
ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a simplified online application procedure for travellers from selected countries with a deal with the US. There are currently 39 countries in VWP, and that number changes over time. Instead of going through strenuous Visa procedures, you can get ESTA to permit rather quickly. Who needs ESTA? Persons from the VW program countries need travel authorization before boarding an airplane or ship to the US.
Department of Homeland Security is the administrative body that regulates issuing ESTA permits within the Visa Waiver Program. Countries added to the program have gone through a partnership phase with the American administration and have a low-level risk assessment. Getting ESTA, however, doesn’t automatically translate to admission into the country. Currently, travellers must check government pages about eligibility because of the COVID-19 regulations and status. This is updated weekly but can also change from day to day.
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How does the application process look like?
Who needs an ESTA? Travellers who plan a trip to the US must fulfill the ESTA form, but you should check if you meet the required criteriums before going on the ESTA page. For example, the purpose of your travel needs to be personal, transit or business, which doesn’t include looking for a job.
Your visit must be limited to 90 days, and you shouldn’t apply if you already have a valid US Visa. Before you start answering a detailed ESTA questionnaire, you should know all the information that needs to be in English. Every traveller will have to fill out a separate ESTA application.
The best time to apply for ESTA is at least 72 hours before boarding the airplane of the vessel to the US. However, the American administration’s usual time to process the application is three working days, so you shouldn’t buy the plane ticket before getting the approval for your application.
In case you have to fly urgently and you have the flight sooner than 72 hours, there is a chance US Custom and Border Protection will process the application before the deadline. In that case, you should check ESTA status online to see whether you got the approval.
For checking the status of your application, you will need an ESTA application number. It is your unique non-transferable number. A passport number and personal info are also required to log in to your account.
What do you need for the application?
Let’s first review what is ESTA? ESTA application is a very detailed online form. Besides your basic personal information, you will have to provide workplace information, trip information and answer a series of qualifying questions. You will also have to provide social media information, which was optional until 2020. Now, this information is mandatory. If you fail to include social media info and you had an active account in the past five years, your application will be disqualified.
After you finished the application, the American administration will take a look at it. What databases does ESTA check? Custom and Border Protection will check various worldwide databases. Terrorist Screening Database is one of the essential checking points. The administration will crosscheck Public Health Department and CDC information vaults. Stolen and Lost passports are also checked, and so is the ESTA database in search of denied applicants. CBP will look into Expedited removals and Visa Revocation, among others.
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Difference between Visa and ESTA
There are three categories of countries. The first category has five countries that are exempt from visa programs. The second is countries in Visa Waiver Program that can visit the US via ESTA, and the third category is all other nations. They need a standard US Visa.
You can get ESTA through the online application form, but you must visit the US embassy and schedule a meeting to get a US Visa. Standard Visa has multiple purposes. For example, you can ask for work, study, or other types of Visa. On the other hand, you can ask for ESTA if you visit for tourist, business, or transit reasons.
Not all travellers can apply for ESTA. There are strict passport requirements for the VWP. All eligible passport documents must have a digital chip with biometric information about the person. In addition, you must have a machine-readable zone on the passports bio page.
Since 2016, all visitors in ESTA program must use an e-passport with an above-mentioned electronic chip. It would help if you also had a digital photograph, which means the photo is printed and not glued on the biography page.
How long does ESTA last?
ESTA gives you a two-year window to visit the US.
What is the maximum length of visit to the US with ESTA?
You can visit an unlimited number of times, and you can stay up to 90 days per visit.
How much does ESTA cost?
There is a $89.00 fee for the online application process, and if you fill out forms for members of your family, you must pay the fee for every member.
Can someone else create my ESTA application?
Yes, another person can submit your application.
What do children need to travel?
All visitors need ESTA. All ESTA applications are linked with passports, so children must have their own.
An electronic system for travel authorization is convenient and fast to get travel authorization within three days. ESTA is made for travellers from countries in Visa Waiver Program, and once you get approval, it lasts for two years. You must provide personal information, social media accounts and answer numerous qualifier questions about your trip. Whether you visit the US for tourist purposes, business trips or you’re in transit, and you will need ESTA. The travel authorization will give you 24 months to visit the US.