How is the ESTA Changing the Way We Travel to the US?

Approved or not

The ESTA has changed the way travelers make their way to the US. For some travelers the system has made travel to the US so much easier, for other people it has not been that easy. The ESTA was instituted as a way to heighten the security of the Visa Waiver Program

The electronic system for travel authorization is an easy online process that allows travelers to travel to the US.


The VWP (visa waiver program) was instituted before the attacks on September 11 as a way to increase travel and tourism to the US.

The original plan was to allow citizens from member countries to cross into the US with only a valid passport however since September 11 security has become a priority and simply allowing passport holders to enter the US without being vetted became a huge security concern.

If you ask travelers that traveled under the VWP before 911 about the ESTA and how it has changed things you may hear some grumbling but for new travelers to the US that do not have a point of reference no one seems to mind the additional step.


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Understanding the VWP

Some people have issues getting the ESTA approval because they do not understand how the VWP is supposed to be used.

Here are some things you CAN do under the VWP program:

  • Visit with friends and family
  • Attend NON credit educational seminars
  • Meet with business associates
  • Check on business ventures
  • Stay for up to 90 days

Here are some things you can NOT do under the VWP:

  • Engage in unauthorized employment (work and collect a salary from someone else)
  • Overstay your 90 days
  • Engage in illegal activities
  • Use the ESTA in place of a visa or for activities that require a visa
  • Take classes that are considered for transfer credits

The Denials

Because of the security concerns of terrorism there are some people that are coming from VWP countries that may not be able to use the ESTA system and will be required to go through the long visa process.

In some cases your ESTA is denied which will ban you from travel to the US. There is a series of questions that you have to answer as part of the application process you have to answer them correctly or your application is denied.

You can be denied travel to the US if:

  • You have overstayed in the US on a previous trip
  • You have worked in the US when you were supposed to be a tourist in the past
  • You have been denied a visa or entry during a previous attempt
  • You are using a passport that is invalid, has been reported stolen or lost
  • You answered “yes” to one of the vetting questions but meant to answer no

One of the ways you can avoid many of the issues that people deal with when using the ESTA authorization system is to have all of your documents ready when you sit down to file the application. There are steps that you can take to make corrections to your application if you go here to file it.


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The first three bullets above will likely keep you from getting the authorization to travel to the US but in many cases the denial is not because of serious reasons but because you answered “yes” to the health questions or the criminal history questions.

The health questions pertain to communicable endemic diseases like Aids not to a cold or even something serious like pneumonia. The other most often answered “yes” when it should be no is the question about “serious crimes”.

Serious crimes against person or property is not simple assault, drunk driving, accidents, traffic violations and a long list of other crimes.

You can find more information HERE about what crimes are reportable on the form and what are not.

With some diligence and taking your time filling out your application you can avoid the most common errors and get your authorization to travel quickly

The Approval

The ESTA approval allows you to board a mode of transport that is headed to the US. One of the biggest changes that the ESTA has implemented is if you even have a layover to Canada, Mexico or to points in Central or South America you have to have an ESTA authorization.

For some people, this has been a huge bone of contention because they feel if they are traveling to Brazil and have to stop in Los Angeles to meet a connecting flight and are never leaving the airport why should they have to go through the system to get an ESTA authorization.

While it is understood that it is an additional step and it does seem like it is an unnecessary step if you are never even leaving the airport keep in mind that additional step is not only for the protection of the US but for all travelers.

Everyone has the right to make it to their destination safely and this small additional step can go a long way to ensure that your travel is safe.

Once you get your approval it is valid for up to 2 years. In other words, you can travel back and forth for 2 years on the same approval which is very convenient if you have business to attend to. As long as each trip only lasts for 90 days you can take advantage of the approval for 2 full years.


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

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Ultimately has there been some changes thanks to the ESTA? Yes, there has but anyone that did not have problems before the ESTA system was put in place likely will not have to worry about problems now.

Using the right application site, being completely forthright with your answers and making sure that you understand the questions fully before you answer will ensure that the ESTA does not affect your travels too much.

With the right support from a trusted site you will be able to have your authorization within 24 hours of making application!