Getting ready to visit the USA soon? The first thing you need to consider is your visa requirements. You can now travel to the USA with an ESTA and we will walk you through what it means and how to apply for one in advance. Most tourists normally satisfy all requirements for an ESTA but it's always good to check everything in detail so your arrival and entry to the US territory goes as smoothly as possible.
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What is an ESTA
An ESTA is a digital travel authorization to travel to America. ESTA is an abbreviation and stands for: “Electronic System for Travel Authorization”.
The ESTA was introduced to act as a safety measure to vet travellers before they board a flight to the USA. This also applies for transit travellers.
Applying for an ESTA enables you to travel to the US without a visa. Getting an ESTA is easier and much faster than the traditional way of obtaining a visa. With an ESTA you can apply online and usually getting your ESTA granted within hours from the time applications are made.
Who needs an ESTA?
Planning on visiting the US on vacation? Or to see friends and families or to go for business meetings? Then you need an ESTA. You also need an ESTA if you have a connecting flight in the USA, even if you don’t plan on leaving the airport. Simply apply for an ESTA online before your departure. During check-in, the staff will check your valid travel authorisations and your ESTA application to ensure you are good to fly to or transit through the USA.
Can you apply for an ESTA on an urgent basis?
Yes, you can. Your ESTA application is valid for two years so it is recommended that you apply as quickly as you have travel plans for USA. However, for emergency situations, an ESTA is normally granted within an hour from application time. However, we do advise to apply as soon as you know you’ll be travelling to the US to avoid any potential complications.
The ESTA lasts for up to two years after it is granted. In this period, travellers are allowed to make an unlimited number of trips to the US. Each stay can last a maximum of 90 days.
In some cases, the ESTA can expire earlier so please make sure you check the ESTA status before booking new flights to the USA.
Requirements for getting an ESTA
The following travel purposes do meet the requirements of the ESTA:
- Going on a vacation
- Visiting friends or family
- Visiting clients or suppliers
- Attending business meetings, negotiations, or conferences
You must own a passport issued by a country in the Visa Waiver Program, which is required to be valid for the entirety of their stay in the United States (see table below).
|Countries in the Visa Waiver Program|
|Australia||Iceland||Republic of Malta|
|Czech Republic||Liechtenstein||South Korea|
|Germany||New Zealand||United Kingdom|
At the moment of arrival in the US, a return- or transit ticket must have already been booked. You will be asked to present it.
Remember that travellers journeying with an ESTA cannot apply for an American visa, extension or residency permit upon arrival in the country
Applying for an ESTA with an emergency passport is only possible if the emergency passport contains a digital chip.
Why do I need to fill in an ESTA application
The "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007" (9/11 Act) amended Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), requiring that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implement an electronic travel authorization system and other measures to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA adds another layer of security that allows DHS to determine, in advance of travel, whether an individual is eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.
Difference between an ESTA and a regular visa
ESTA USA is not a visa. Individuals who possess a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose for which it was issued. Just note that if you are travelling on valid visas you are not required to apply for a travel authorization.
Is my information safe and for how long will it be stored?
Yes, your information is securely stored by the US Government. The ESTA application data remains active for the period of time that the approved ESTA is valid, which is generally two years, or until the traveller's passport expires, whichever comes first. The government will then maintain your information for an additional year after which it will be archived for twelve years to allow retrieval of the information for law enforcement, national security, or investigatory purposes.