Not every traveler heading to the United States of America needs a visa. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA for the US provides another option for eligible visitors.
Introduced in 2009, the ESTA is an online system that allows travelers to register their details ahead of their trip to the United States.
For nationals of countries in the visa waiver program, the only requirement other than a valid passport is to register with ESTA.
Quicker and easier than the US visa application process, the ESTA simply involves filling in an online form that can be completed from the would-be traveler’s home or office, rather than going to an American embassy or consulate.
Eligible foreign nationals must register some basic personal information, such as their name, nationality, and date of birth, their passport details, and travel plans. In addition, they must answer some questions regarding their health and some general security questions.
The form takes a short time to complete, after which the applicant will receive approval via email.
The ESTA enables US homeland security to prescreen travelers before they arrive on American soil in order to ensure the safety of both US citizens and visitors to the country by identifying security risks.
The travel document is valid for 2 years from the date of issue and permits the traveler to visit the US for up to 90 days.
Filling in the Online ESTA Registration Form
Applying for the ESTA involves following several basic steps. First, applicants must go to the online registration form.
Applicants must enter basic information about themselves such as:
- Full name
- Date of birth
- Country of citizenship
- Place of birth
They must also submit contact details, including a current email address. Confirmation of their valid ESTA will be sent to this account following registration.
Passport details are required, including the following:
- Passport number
- Date of issue
- Date of expiry
Finally, the applicant must answer some security questions concerning past travel, health, and criminal history, if applicable.
Online registration with ESTA should take a matter of minutes.
Travelers should have a credit card ready to pay a small registration fee. Once the application is submitted, the details are processed by US authorities. This rarely takes longer than 72 hours and typically is done within 24 hours.
The approved ESTA is then sent to the applicant by email.
Eligibility for the ESTA
To apply for the ESTA, travelers must be from one of the 39 visa waiver countries. These include all the European Schengen countries, the UK, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand, among others.
Nationals of other countries should check visa requirements for the United States to see which visa or travel authorization they require.
Citizens of a select few countries and territories do not need any sort of visa or visa waiver to visit the US. Canadians, for example, are free to cross the border into the US using just their ID.
The other key criteria for ESTA eligibility is the purpose of the visit. Only individuals traveling to the United States of America for tourism, leisure, or business may enter with the ESTA.
Those who intend to live or work in the USA must apply for the relevant visas and permits.
All travelers should be sure to consult worldwide visa information to ensure that they have the correct paperwork before arriving in the States.