Critical differences between ESTA application and Visa

Visiting the US requires some travel authorization. There are only five countries in the world whose citizens can travel freely to the US. In all other instances, you will need US Visa, or for some travellers, ESTA. There are few similarities and a couple of crucial difference between esta application and Visa. This article will go through the electronic system for travel authorization steps, and we'll look into who needs and how to get US Visitor Visa. Then, we'll show the difference between ESTA applications and Visa.

Who needs Visa, and who needs ESTA to enter the US

Travellers that come to the US require some travel documents. Nationalities of Canada, Israel, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau can visit the US without an entry permit. But, if the travel by air whey must ask for OK board authorization and pay a fee of $20.

Bahamas, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Cayman Islands, Tuks, and Caicos Islands, and some Mexicans can travel to the US without a Visa. Most other countries need US Visitor Visa, and 39 countries in Visa Waiver Program can get ESTA travel permits. How long can you stay in the US without a Visa? Travellers that have ESTA travel permits can stay up to 90 days in the US. But let's explore in more detail: What is ESTA?


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Electronic system for travel authorization and Visa Waiver Program

The main criterium when we look at the difference between esta application and Visa is security. Countries in Visa Waiver Program are regarded as safer and travellers as less of a threat. That said, other visitors are not automatically perceived as a threat. There are currently 39 countries in Visa Waiver Program.

Who needs ESTA? People who visit the US from that country by air or ship need ESTA. While most world countries require a valid Visa to enter the US, chosen 39 US partners in VWP can get easy and quick online travel authorization. In case you're travelling by air or sea, you must have travel authorization. It would be best to get it in advance because it is valid for two years, and you can easily plan your trip after getting ESTA.

The process itself is relatively straightforward. An online procedure requires you to fill in personal information and answer a series of qualifying questions. You should also give your social media accounts if you had any in the last five years. This information was optional, but from 2020 they are mandatory for ESTA applicants.

When you submit ESTA online, there is a fee that you must pay. If you fill out applications for more people like your entire family, every member requires a fee. All the ESTA application information must be submitted in English. The American administration needs around 72 hours to process the application.

Besides your info like age, gender, address, and social accounts for Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Instagram, there are a couple of other obligatory pieces of information. First, there is a field in the online questionnaire about a point of contact. If you don't have one, you can leave that field as unknown, but you should write down all about the first overnight stay with the address and phone number of a hotel, Airbnb other accommodation. The field you must fill out is an emergency contact. It could be the same as the point of contact, or it could be a person in your home country.

When do I need ESTA? You need it for any travel by air or ship from VWP countries, and you need it on time. However, if you had an emergency and have to fly immediately to the US, you can buy plane tickets, but it is uncertain whether you will get ESTA on time. There is a possibility administration could handle your request quickly. The ESTA status online is always available for you. You will need your unique ESTA application number, your passport number, and the personal information you've used for the application.

With ESTA, you can visit the US an unlimited number of times in two years, but you can be in the country for 90 days in one go. So, let's further explore the difference between esta application and Visa.

Who needs US Visa

Outside of the Visa Waiver Program, pretty much all other countries in the world need a US Visa. Getting a Visa is a lengthy process that includes a visit to the US embassy and an interview with the American administration personnel.

When we talk about US Visa as a travel document, the topic is nonimmigrant Visas. There are broadly three types of US Visa: Visitor Visa, Student or Exchange Visitor Visa, and all other Nonimmigrant Visas. Visa authorities have cited 34 possible reasons and codes for nonimmigrant Visas.

The purpose of your travel determines the type of Visa you will need. Unlike an ESTA permit, Visa doesn't expire with the passport, and you can still travel to the US with a valid Visa and your expired and a new passport.

The significant difference between ESTA and nonimmigrant US Visa is in the process length. While travellers eligible for ESTA permits can get their travel authorization within three days, administrative processing for US Visa takes around 180 days only to get an interview appointment with the consular officer. Also, a one-time fee for the online ESTA procedure is $89.00, while most nonimmigrant visa types have a cost of $160.

There are, however, some advantages for US Visa over ESTA travel authorization. The validity of a nonimmigrant visa can be from one month to a maximum of 10 years. You can visit the US in that period multiple times and with a maximum duration of 6 months in one stay.

How US immigration laws changed over time

Throughout American history, acts and laws changed to tackle immigration issues. The first law was introduced in 1790, and it stated that you could become a US citizen if you were white with good moral character and lived in the US for at least two years.

Some 80 years later, people of African origins got the right to citizenship. The first restrictions came in 1875, banning immigration for criminals, polygamists, prostitutes, and other inappropriate profiles. Among unwanted immigrants, the administration limited migration from China and most Asian countries.

At the turn of the century, most immigrants in the US were not from northern and western Europe. In the 1920s, the US government passed the laws trying to restore favourable immigration patterns favouring north and western Europeans.

The significant change came in 1965 amidst the Civil Rights movement when many factors contributed to the Immigration and Nationality Act. The new law favoured reuniting the family and focus on the skilled workers instead of the country quota system. After the introduction of this act, immigration was dominated by people from Latin America and Asia. Some other changes like the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act legalized millions of illegal immigrants. In the wake of various terrorist threats, new laws focused on tightening admission eligibility.


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ESTA eligibility

A thorough background check will uncover all about the applicant's history. People who are not eligible to get ESTA include travellers who were arrested. They don't have to be persecuted or convicted. Travellers with criminal records, contagious diseases, or infectious illnesses are excluded. If you have been deported or overstayed on previous travel authorization, you will also be removed from the ESTA option, and you can try with US Visa.

There are a couple of things to be mindful of. First, ESTA permit travellers must have holding or transit tickets. If you have electronic tickets, you must present a copy of the itinerary when entering the US. Second, for the final destination in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda, or Caribbean Islands, you can proceed only if you are a permanent resident of the goal on the ticket.

Another requirement for an ESTA travel permit states travellers must have a passport valid for at least six months after the planned end of the trip.

Important notes

  • Do not overstay the planned period of stay. ESTA authorization lets travellers stay for up to 90 days in one visit. If you stay even one day over the top, you will be banned for life from Electronic System for Travel Authorization.
  • Things are a bit different and somewhat more forgiving for travellers and holders of US Visa. If you overstay up to 180 days, you will have the opportunity to apply again for Visa, but you will still be ineligible for Visa Waiver Program.
  • For longer overstays in the US, there are different policies. People who overstayed for more than 180 days but less than a year can't re-enter the US for another three years. If you stayed over a year, you would not get the chance to return in the next ten years. There is no time limit for immigrants removed by immigration services and will be banned for life from re-entry.
  • There are some exemptions from the strict immigration rules. For example, people who seek asylum, underaged people, beneficiaries of the Family Unity Program, victims of trafficking, and domestic abuse can be exempt from the bans caused by overstay in the US under the Visa.


How long is ESTA valid?

ESTA permit is valid for two years, and you can come to the US multiple time. However, the maximum length of a single stay is 90 days.

How long is Visa valid?

That depends on the type of Visa you're applying to, but most have a duration between one month and ten years. So, for example, with US Visa, you can visit the US multiple time, and the maximum length of one visit is six months.

What are the critical differences in the application process between ESTA and US Visa?

ESTA is a fast online procedure consisting of a detailed questionnaire, and you can get results within three days. On the other hand, US Visa requires an appointment in the local US embassy, and you can wait for that meeting for almost half a year. Another significant difference is in the fee. ESTA has a one-time $89.00 and US Visa $180 fee.

Can someone else fill out my application?

You can have a third party submit your ESTA and Visa application. However, you should know all the information and have credentials, and for the Visa, you will have to come to the embassy for a meeting in person.


Do You Have U.S. ESTA VISA Travel Authorization? If You Have ESTA Application, Check if it is Still Valid!

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Electronic systems for travel authorization and US Visa have more differences than similarities. ESTA is a speedy and convenient way to get a US entry permit, while the US Visa application process is much lengthier and demanding. It includes a personalized interview with a US embassy officer.

Another significant difference is in the validity and length of stay. You can travel to the US with ESTA for two years and stay up to 90 days at once. With US Visa (depending on the type), you can stay from one month to ten years. If you don't respect the time of stay, you will be banned for life from the ESTA program. The US Visa is, in that case, more forgiving.

Lastly, if you don't get ESTA, you can apply for American Visa. However, this is not the case on the flip side, and only eligible people from Visa Waiver Program can use it.