Note: At this time we strongly recommend against traveling anywhere in the world due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. To fight this pandemic it is important that all of us do our best, so the world can go back to normal with the least amount of human suffering.
That said, and assuming we are over Covid-19 by the end of the summer and your feet are itchy to travel. What should you do? Where should you travel to? What are some of the great deals?
If you are thinking of visiting the USA, how do to apply for a US travel visa or an ESTA? What travel documents would you need The steps and documents required will be determined by your country of citizenship.
Let us explain what is ESTA and how can you apply one.
How to Apply For A USA ESTA VISA
What is ESTA?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (also known as ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It mainly applies to visitors who are coming to the US either by air or sea.
Is ESTA a Guaranteed Entry?
Travel authorization via ESTA does not mean that you are guaranteed entry to the United States. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers determine admissibility upon travelers’ arrival.
The ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions.
When Should I Apply for ESTA?
It is strongly encouraged that ESTA applications be submitted at least 72 hours prior to your travel. But you can apply as soon as you begin preparing your travel plans. The US CBP’s website says that “In most cases, a response is received within seconds of submitting an application.”
Note: Passengers (including babies) without an ESTA will be denied entry into the US at the port of entry. There is a small fee for applying for ESTA application.
Do I need ESTA to visit US Territories?
Yes, ESTA is also needed for visits to territories such as Guam, Northern Mariana Islands, American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and U.S. Virgin Islands.
Do I need ESTA if I am traveling from Canada or Mexico by car (land)?
Note: The United States is very strict with its immigration policies and if you are caught entering the country illegally, you will be deported and jailed depending on your crime.
Is My Country Eligible?
As of November 2019, there are 39 countries in the US Visa Waiver Program. Visitors may stay for 90 days in the United States which also includes the time spent in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Islands in the Caribbean if the arrival was through the United States.
The ESTA is only required if arriving by air or cruise ship. It is not required if arriving overland or on local ferries such as between British Columbia (Vancouver and Victoria) and Washington State.
ESTA Eligible Countries
- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
How to Check Your ESTA Status?
You must know your ESTA status before you travel to the US by visiting the ESTA website. First, to know if your country is among the Visa waiver program countries (listed above), and second, to check the status of your application.
In case your country is not on the list of VWP countries, then you must apply for a US Travel visa through a US embassy in your country of residence. Please note applying for a US travel visa is a substantially lengthier process that may require an interview with a U.S. Consular Officer.
ESTA vs. US Travel Visa
At times, some people combine the two documents such as ESTA and US Travel Visa as one; forgetting that they are two different documents. If you are eligible for ESTA, then you must check your ESTA status online.
How Long Is ESTA Valid?
Each travel authorization under ESTA can be valid for up to 2 years. However, a Visa Waiver Program traveler must obtain a new ESTA authorization if they are issued a new passport, or change their name, gender or country of citizenship.
Entry under the Visa Waiver Program is only valid for a combined maximum stay in the US and its surrounding countries of 90 days. The admission period cannot be extended under the ESTA program. If a longer stay is intended, a proper US travel visa is required.
Third-Party ESTA Websites
Some websites offer to complete ESTA applications for a fee, often many times more than the required $14 USD fee charged by the US Government. Access and application through the official U.S. Government website are available to any visitors to the U.S. who qualify under the ESTA program.
Even if one of the third-party websites is used, passengers themselves still have to complete the same form.
Exercise caution though (if using a third party website) as concerns have been raised that third-party sites could be used for identity theft, credit card fraud, or the distribution of malware.