If you are travelling to the US, lucky you! Did you know that you will need an ESTA, do you know what one is and how to apply? I have put together an easy guide to tell you all you need to know…
What is an ESTA?
An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) USA is a mandatory travel authorisation to travel to the US without a visa. An ESTA for the US is not a physical document, but an electronic travel authorisation for the United States of America.
How do I apply for an ESTA?
An ESTA application can be submitted online quickly and easily 24 hours a day via a digital ESTA form. It costs £29.95 per person. Applying for an ESTA can be done entirely online; there is no need to visit the US consulate. Getting an ESTA is easier and faster than a US visa, and the application costs are lower.
Can I make a group application?
You can submit a group application, by filling in multiple travellers on one form. It takes a few minutes per person. You can pay securely with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, or via PayPal.
How long will it take to receive my ESTA?
As soon as the payment is received, your application will be processed. If you have chosen an urgent application (by checking the ‘Urgent’ box), the ESTA will be granted on average within an hour. This costs an additional £17.50 Urgent applications are processed much faster but in exceptional cases can take up to a maximum of 72 hours.
You can track the progress of your application online 24 hours a day. It is always best to apply for your ESTA as soon as you know you are travelling to the US. You don’t need to know your exact travel plans to apply but you need to state if your visit is for business, a holiday, or for a transfer.
Who needs an ESTA?
Anyone who is visiting on holiday, or on a business trip, or transferring flights etc in the United States of America, need an ESTA USA. Travellers that do not possess a valid ESTA are refused entry when checking-in on their flight, ferry service, or cruise to the USA. All children are also expected to have their own ESTA. Only people travelling into the United States by land, or who possess an American visa or passport, do not need an ESTA. Applying for an ESTA can be done entirely online; there is no need to visit the US consulate. Because of this, acquiring an ESTA is easier and faster than a US visa, and the application costs are lower.
Transportation companies, including airlines and shipping companies, check before departure whether each traveller has a valid ESTA. They check the traveller’s passport number in the database with approved travel authorisations by the U.S. Customs And Border Protection. Travellers without an ESTA are denied entry.
How long is an ESTA valid for?
An ESTA is valid for two years. During this time travellers are allowed to visit the US as often as they want. The trips can be for business or pleasure. Each stay in the USA can last a maximum of 90 consecutive days. This includes visits to Canada, Mexico, or a Caribbean island. For a longer stay, a US visa is required. When the passport with which the visa or ESTA was applied for expires, the validity of the visa or ESTA also expires.
Important rules regarding application:
- You have to prove upon arrival in the US that you are planning to leave the United States in the future, by providing a return or transit ticket.
- You must also apply for an ESTA if going to Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the American Virgin Islands, or the Northern Marianas.
- Persons of whom it is suspected that they pose a threat to the safety or public order of the US can be refused entry by Homeland Security at all times, even if they have a valid US or ESTA visa
- Travellers who have been to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, or Somalia after March 10th 2011 or who have ever held the nationality of one of these countries, cannot apply for an ESTA.
I hope this post answers any questions you may have regarding the ESTA for the US.