ESTA: Electronic System for Travel Authorization

The United States of America is a great place to visit for tourism, business or even medical purposes. There are two ways to do this.

  • Obtain a U.S. tourist visa, such as a B-1 visa for business purposes or a B-2 visa for tourist purposes.
  • Obtain a travel authorization under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

This article explains what ESTA is, what the requirements are, and how to apply for it.

What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an electronic program that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched the system in 2009 to enhance travel security and expedite the approval process. ESTA is an important requirement for the Visa Waiver Program, and anyone who does not have an approved and valid ESTA will not be allowed to enter the United States, even if they meet all other VWP requirements. cannot enter the United States.

ESTA holders are allowed to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days; ESTA is a temporary resident document and does not entitle the holder to a longer stay. This is the main difference between ESTA and a US tourist visa, which allows you to extend your stay in the US after a six-month stay.

ESTA is only a document that can be used to enter the United States. It is not a visa and cannot be used in place of a visa. It can only be used for tourism or business purposes. However, if you wish to travel to the United States for other activities, you must apply for a valid visa.

What are the Requirements of ESTA?

In order to obtain an ESTA, you must meet the requirements. You can apply for this travel document if you meet the following requirements.

  • You are a citizen of one of the 39 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
  • You plan to stay in the United States for 90 days or less.
  • You do not have a valid U.S. tourist visa (B-1 or B-2 visa).
  • You are traveling to the U.S. for tourism or business purposes.

If you do not meet at least one of these requirements, you cannot apply for ESTA and must apply for a visa to travel to the United States.

Who Can Apply for ESTA?

Since November 11, 2019, when Poland joined the Visa Waiver Program, the following countries can allow their citizens to apply for ESTA

Andorra (1991) Australia (1996) Austria (1991)
Belgium (1991) Brunei (1993) Chile (2014)
Czechia (2008) Denmark (1991) Estonia (2008)
Finland (1991) France (1989) Germany (1989)
Greece (2010) Hungary (2008) Iceland (1991)
Ireland (1995) Italy (1989) Japan (1988)
South Korea (2008) Latvia (2008) Liechtenstein (1991)
Lithuania (2008) Luxembourg (1991) Malta (2008)
Monaco (1991) Netherlands (1989) New Zealand (1991)
Norway (1991) Poland* (2019) Portugal (1999)
San Marino (1991) Singapore (1999) Slovakia (2008)
Slovenia (1997) Spain (1991) Sweden (1989)
Switzerland (1989) Taiwan (2012) United Kingdom (1988)

In 2016, the United States began implementing changes to the Visa Waiver Program under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, and since then, certain travelers have been unable to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The following groups are affected by the changes

  • Nationals of visa waiver countries who were in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 01, 2011. Please note that diplomats and military personnel are exceptions to this rule.
  • A citizen of a visa-exempt country who is also a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
  • As of August 06, 2019, travelers who visited North Korea after March 01, 2011 are no longer eligible for ESTA.

Do I Need to Apply for ESTA Even If I Want to Transit Through USA?

If you are a citizen of a country participating in the VWP, you must apply for an ESTA even if you are traveling through the United States. For example, if you are traveling to Cuba, you must apply for a valid ESTA to travel through the United States.

How to Apply for ESTA?

Applying for ESTA is very simple and can be summarized in a few steps: you must apply for ESTA through the Customs and Border Protection website. There you will find the ESTA link and the rules. You can choose to apply as an individual or as a group. Group applications are usually available if you are traveling with family or friends.To apply for ESTA, you must do three things

  1. Fill out the ESTA form.
  2. Submit the required documents.
  3. Make a payment.
  4. Wait for your application to be processed.

Completing the ESTA Form

The ESTA application form contains your personal information, specifically your passport identification number. This information includes

  • Your first and last name.
  • Information about your parents.
  • Citizenship
  • Contact information.
  • Employment information, and so on.

We will then check this information against various legal databases to determine if you pose a security risk.

Submit the necessary documents

For this reason, the following documents are required to apply for ESTA.

  • A valid electronic passport that is at least six months old from the date you plan to leave the United States.
  • A valid payment method (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, Discover or PayPal).

After you have entered your information and completed all the steps, you will need to wait for your application to be processed.

Pay the ESTA fees

There is a fee that must be paid by the applicant to apply for ESTA; the ESTA fee is $14 per applicant. This fee is divided into two parts

  • Processing fee: $4.00 per applicant and is charged to the person applying for the ESTA.
  • Approval Fee: $10 per applicant and charged to the person granted the ESTA approval; if your ESTA is denied, you will only have to pay $4 and will not be charged the additional $10.

Payment methods vary, but only credit cards and PayPal are accepted, so please choose one of these payment methods.

ESTA is relatively inexpensive compared to applying for a visa, which costs about $160 for a B-1 or B-2 visa. For this reason, ESTA is preferred for short-term travelers participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program.

How Long is the ESTA Processing Time?

The ESTA application process takes a very short time. In most cases, you will receive a response within 72 hours unless your information indicates a potential security risk or criminal record.

This is why ESTA is so advantageous compared to a US tourist visa. Instead of waiting weeks or months for a visa to be processed, ESTA applications are fast and efficient. If you are denied ESTA, you can no longer apply for ESTA and must apply for a tourist visa.

How Long is ESTA Valid for?

The question of how long ESTA is valid and whether your ESTA is still valid is very important when planning your trip. If your ESTA application is approved, it will be valid for two years or until your passport expiration date. If your passport has less than two years remaining, ESTA is valid until that date.

How Many Times Can I Enter the US With an ESTA?

You can enter the United States as many times as you like and stay for the designated 90 days as long as your ESTA is valid. However, you should not travel to the U.S. so often that it makes people wonder if you really live in the U.S. In other words: If you travel to the U.S. for 90 days and then return to the U.S. 10 days later, Customs and Border Protection officials will become suspicious and may deny you entry. There is no specific date after which you should travel to the US, but we advise you to wait a reasonable amount of time.

Does Having a Valid ESTA Guarantee Entry Into the US?

No. Possession of a valid ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. That decision is left to the officer at the U.S. port of entry. Both the U.S. visa and ESTA authorize entry into the United States. It is at the discretion of the Border Patrol whether or not you will be allowed to enter the country.

Can I Extend my Stay With an ESTA?

Unfortunately, once you have entered the United States using ESTA, you cannot extend your stay. You have a maximum stay of 90 days before your document expires.

Also, you cannot apply for a change of status if, for example, you find a job and want to work in the United States. Therefore, even if an employer is willing to sponsor you for an H-1B visa, you cannot accept the job.

When Should I Renew the ESTA?

If your ESTA is more than two years old or your passport has expired and you want to travel to the United States, you must renew your ESTA. In addition, your ESTA can be revoked at any time if new information is added to the database and security risks increase.

This means that you will need to apply for a new ESTA in order to renew your ESTA. In addition to these two cases, you may also need to renew your ESTA in the following cases.

  • You have received a new passport.
  • You have changed your name.
  • You have changed your gender.
  • You change your nationality.

If you have been convicted of a crime or there are other circumstances that require you to reapply for ESTA.
Renewing your ESTA is the same as applying for it, and you must follow the same procedure.

Do Children Need an ESTA?

ESTA is a required authorization for anyone planning to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. This includes people of all ages, from infants and children to adults and the elderly. There are no exceptions, and even children who do not necessarily need a passport must have an approved ESTA.

In these cases, it is recommended that parents apply together, including their children. Applications for children can follow the same procedure as for adults.

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