ESTA means Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an automated system used by the United States to check for the eligibility of visitors from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to travel to the U.S. for short-term business or tourism purposes without obtaining a visa. Travelers are to apply for ESTA online before traveling.
Anybody wishing to go to the US under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must get an ESTA authorization (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before they begin their trip.
The ESTA program is coordinated by the Department of Homeland Security/Customs and Border Protection (DHS/CBP).
The ESTA authorization is requested online and received at least 72 hours before the trip. However, you should obtain the ESTA as soon as possible; if you’re denied, you will have to apply for a non-immigrant visa, a procedure that might take some time.
Note: If your passport has been lost or stolen by the authorities and later recovered, please don’t try to travel with it to the U.S. If you put your passport details into ESTA, they will refuse your application. Just focus on replacing your passport before you apply for ESTA.
How to apply a travel authorization to the U.S. through ESTA
Go through the list of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program to know if your country is included.
Ensure that your passport meets their program requirements. You must have an electronic passport, or “e-Passport” to participate in the VWP. This category of passport includes a chip.
Complete the ESTA application online.
Make Payment: The total cost is $21. When you apply, you will pay a $4 processing fee. If they have approved your travel to the U.S., you must pay an additional $17 authorization fee.
When you complete and submit the form and processing fee, you will receive an ESTA application number. Use the number to check your application status. It might take about 72 hours to get feedback if you have been authorized to travel to the U.S. under the VWP.
Any approved ESTA application is usually valid for two years and permits multiple visits to the U.S. within the stipulated time without the need to apply for another travel approval. If your passport expires in less than two years, you will get an ESTA approval valid until the passport’s expiration.
If you travel to the U.S. for tourism or business under the VWP, you might stay for 90 days on every visit.
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Other travel documents you will need to enter the U.S.
Although you might be qualified for the VWP, you will also need to come with a passport from your own country to enter the U.S. Usually, your passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the date you will leave the U.S. except your country has an official agreement with the U.S.
If you enter the U.S., officials at your port of entry will give you a Form I-94W, an electronic record of your entry date.
WHO SHOULD APPLY?
You can apply if you:
Want to travel for 90 days or less.
Plan to travel to the United States for business, work, or fun.
Are presently not in possession of a visitor’s visa.
Intend to apply for a new authorization for one person or a group of applications for two or more persons.
Are you a citizen or bona fide national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
Things needed to apply?
Home address and phone number.
Emergency points of contact are phone and email.
Valid passport(s) from a Visa Waiver Program country.
List of Visa-Waiver Countries
Valid email address.
The application fee is USD 21.00.
Valid payment methods include MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover (JCB or Diners Club only), and PayPal.
The following information might also be needed:
Aliases or other names (If applicable).
National ID or personal ID number (if applicable).
Global Entry/NEXUS/SENTRI ID number (if applicable).
Employer’s address and phone number (if applicable).
U.S. point of contact name, address, and phone (if applicable).