Are you looking forward to traveling to the United States any time soon? Even before you start with your planning or you book your tickets, it is essential to think about your ESTA application. The ESTA was brought into place by the authorities to keep away unwanted visitors to the United States.
Many other governments, such as that of Australia and Canada too have similar electronic travel programs in place for their visitors. Other countries around the world, too, are planning to follow the ESTA model as it has the potential to replace physical Visas. Click here for the ESTA pricing.
In fact, the ESTA system has dual benefits. While the government enjoys greater control over the travels, the visitors too can skip the formalities that come with acquiring a physical visa. If you are going through the ESTA application for the first time, it is natural to have several queries in mind. Read on for a simple and straightforward account of the entire ESTA process.
What Is ESTA?
Before you go to the ESTA process, it may be helpful to understand what ESTA essentially means. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Through this automated system, it is determined whether you are eligible to visit the US or not. Mandated from 2007 onwards, you may not be allowed to even board unless you have the ESTA application cleared.
The ESTA is an initiative that was started under the Visa Waiver program. While travel websites may claim that you can apply for the ESTA any time, experience holders say that it is best to apply as soon as possible. Information in the official website run by the government too says that your ETSA formalities must be completed at least seventy-two hours prior to your travel.
It is important to note here that ESTA is required only when you are travelling by air or sea. It is not necessary when you are entering the country by land.
Who Must Apply For ESTA?
Under usual circumstances, foreigners who travel to the United States have to apply for a Visa and wait for its arrival before visiting the United States. But this process has been considerably simplified by the arrival of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
Citizens from countries that are a member of the VWP can benefit from this special waiver. However, merely being a citizen of the member countries is not enough confirmation. Authorities may take into consideration your travel history and a number of other such factors before permitting you.
If there are children travelling with you, it is vital to apply for ESTA on their behalf as well. Only those who are travelling by land or are citizens of the U.S and Canada are exempted from the need to apply for ESTA.
The ESTA Edge
If you are wondering how the ESTA is more beneficial than the usual visa procedure, here are a few points you can check out:
Compared to the regular visa, the ESTA takes a much shorter time in terms of processing. So, if you are visiting the US only for a short vacation or business trip, the ESTA is the perfect option for you. In certain urgent situations, the ESTA is even offered within an hour of the payment.
When you go for a conventional visa, you’ll have to deal with a number of procedures. These include securing an appointment with the US embassy of your country and so on. Opposed to that, there are minimal formalities associated with ESTA, and all of it can be concluded online. No wonder processes such as the ESTA are increasingly embraced by a number of countries to promote tourism there.
Compared to the conventional visa procedure, the ESTA is cost-efficient too. While earlier the ESTA was totally free of cost, today there is a minimal processing fee associated with it. In case your application is rejected, the fees are refunded back to the account from which you have made the payment.
While these are the key advantages, there are several others too that you can enjoy with the ESTA.
Though there is so much tension surrounding the application process, you will be surprised to learn that it takes barely fifteen to twenty minutes in reality. Since the ESTA is not a physical form, it is readily available on the official website.
But before you sit down to fill the form, make sure you have all the necessary documents and information ready at hand. Foremost among these requirements is the electronic passport issued to you by your country (given that it is a member of VWP). You will have to submit your passport number for confirmation.
Apart from these, you will also have given them the first and last name of your parents along with emergency contact details. If your tour is for business purposes, then you will also need to provide them with the name of the organization or person that you are meeting on business. The authorities will verify these details before approving your application.
Information regarding the place of stay is also taken in advance. Apart from that, your current employment status, criminal history, and other such details are also required during the application procedures.
The official website has details pertaining to the eligibility criteria. It is essential that you go through them carefully. Certain crimes may make the applicant ineligible for ESTA.
Validity and Renewal of ESTA
In theory, it is held that the ESTA is valid for two years from the date of initial approval. But under several conditions, it may be revoked before the given date. For instance, if your passport expires before the given date, then the ESTA will automatically expire too. This is because the ESTA is tied to your passport. So unless the passport is valid, the ESTA will also not be considered valid.
After expiration, you can reapply for it using the same procedure. Hopefully, the whole process is clear to you now.