Many people love to visit the USA, but it is not as simple as landing and getting a stamp for most citizens. The United States introduced strict measures for anyone entering the United States.
For example, United Kingdom citizens can enter the United States without a visa. But United Kingdom citizens will need to apply for an ESTA before they depart. And most of the time, you will not be allowed to board the plane without proof of an approved ESTA.
The first step is to apply for an ESTA online. And you can do this with the ESTA application here. A new page will open where you can fill in your details and begin your application.
An ESTA is an abbreviation for “electronic system for travel authorization,” It will check all potential visitors to the United States for criminal records, visa bans, and safety issues.
And only when the ESTA is approved will airlines or travel companies allow you to begin your trip to the USA.
An important note:
If you intend to stay in the United States for more than 90 days, an ESTA visa is not the one for you. Because the maximum stay on an ESTA visa is 90 days, and you can’t look for any employment on an ESTA visa. The visa strictly prohibits this.
The ESTA visa is purely for travel and leisure purposes; for any other purposes, you should look into alternatives.
Why do I need to apply for an ESTA visa?
The US Department of Homeland Security introduced this visa for security purposes. But they also wanted to streamline the entry process for those eligible for the visa waiver program. The process is far more straightforward for eligible candidates than applying for an ordinary visa.
The US Department of Homeland Security will perform the check online. You won’t need to make any frustrating trips to the US embassy in your country before you leave. And you can do it all from the comfort of your home.
There are two options for obtaining an ESTA. You can do it by yourself or pay for a third party to do it all for you.
The ESTA application will ask basic questions about your address, personal circumstances, and countries that you’ve traveled to recently. Travelers usually receive an email very quickly if the department has approved your ESTA application. Sometimes it’s as fast as ten minutes, but it could be up to 72 hours.
After the department has processed the ESTA, airlines will see that your application is approved. But it is a good idea to have separate evidence on your phone or in print to confirm this.
Who needs to apply for an ESTA USA?
Every citizen that holds a passport from one of the countries in the visa-waiver program can apply for an ESTA. If you are from one of those countries, you must apply for an ESTA no matter how you decide to enter the country.
If you don’t hold a passport that’s part of the waiver-program, you have to look at other options.
The only exception is if you already have a valid United States visa. And if you have children, their application must be submitted by the legal guardian.
What do I need to apply for an ESTA visa?
One of the most frequently asked questions is, what do I need to apply for an ESTA? We are going to list what you need.
A machine-readable biographic page
You must have a machine-readable biographic page to apply for an ESTA. Most modern passports do have this, but you should check that you have a machine-readable biographic page just to be sure.
An electronic passport with a chip
You must have an electronic passport with a chip to enter the United States on an ESTA. From April 1st, 2016, every passenger that travels to the United States on an ESTA must have an electronic passport.
You should not even apply for an ESTA if you don’t have an E-passport. And before you board the plane, the airline is likely to check this.
If they fail to certify whether your passport is electronic, you won’t be able to board.
Most passports with an electronic chip will have the E-passport symbol on them. It is usually at the front of the passport.
Your passport must be valid when you apply for the ESTA and when you depart to the United States.
Your passport must remain valid for the entire stay in the United States. Your passport doesn’t need six months of validity, unlike in many countries.
Proof of return ticket
If you enter the United States on an ESTA, the US Department of Homeland Security will ask to see if you have a returning flight.
It is a great idea to print off your ticket confirmation before you land to prevent any issues on the border. If you arrive in the United States without proof of a return ticket, the border has every right to refuse entry.
And most times, the airline will ask to see your proof of return ticket before you board the plane. They are likely to refuse to let you board if you don’t have the evidence.
What reasons will my ESTA application be rejected?
There are many reasons why the US Department of Homeland Security may refuse your application.
If you have been arrested or have a criminal record in your home country, the US Department of Homeland Security might refuse you.
If the US Department of Homeland Security has ever refused you entry into the United States, they could deny your application.
And suppose you have entered Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, or Libya after March 1, 2011. In that case, they could refuse your ESTA application, and you might have to apply for a visa where you’ll answer questions on the reasons why you visited those countries.
Does an ESTA automatically mean that I can enter the United States?
No, it doesn’t.
The ESTA will have to be approved by the US Department of Homeland Security before you can enter. They have every right to reject your ESTA application if the system highlights any criminal record issues or previous visa denials from other countries.
And you should always apply for an ESTA 72 hours before traveling. If you apply 48 hours before you depart and the US Depart of Homeland Security hasn’t approved it yet, you will not be allowed to enter the United States.
So it is a good idea to apply weeks before you depart. Therefore, you’ll have time to fix any issues and communicate with the US Department of Homeland Security on the rejection reasons. And you could even look at other visa options.
Where do I submit my application?
You can submit your ESTA application online here. It’s a straightforward process where you’ll enter your passport data, personal data, previous visas, and any prior convictions.
After you finished the application, you will complete the payment process, so it’s a great idea to have your payment card ready before you start the application. You don’t have to pay with your credit card; it can be someone else. But you must be done on the same device.
Do I have to state my travel plans on my ESTA applications?
You will have to state your entire itinerary, hotels, and many more in some countries. Thankfully, you don’t need to do this with an ESTA visa.
Therefore, you don’t need an address in the United States when you apply. It will give you an option of a contact address, but you have the option of leaving it blank.
Can I change my details after applying?
You can change some details, and others you can’t. It is possible to change your email address, contact number, and travel plans upon arrival. But everything else isn’t allowed, and you will have to submit a new application and pay again.
So you should make sure that you get everything correct on the application. Ensure that you have written the correct name, passport number, expiry date, and home address because any of those mistakes will invalidate your whole application.
How long is the ESTA visa valid for after approval?
From the second that the US Department of Homeland Security approves your visa, you will have two years from the time of issue before the ESTA expires. So you can enter the United States on that ESTA at any time after those two years. But after that, the visa is invalidated, and you’ll need to apply for a new one.
Suppose any of your circumstances change within those two years. For example, you lose the passport and have a new passport number. Or you have to change your name, the ESTA is invalidated, and you’ll need a new one.
Could it be that I have to apply for a new ESTA before the two years have expired?
Sometimes, it depends on your circumstances.
Here are some reasons why:
- You have had to change your passport.
- You have taken another citizenship that you didn’t disclose in the original application.
- Your circumstances have changed, so you can’t answer the security questions anymore.
- You have had gender reassignment.
- You have obtained a criminal record during this period.
All of the reasons above will mean you have to reapply for a new ESTA.
What happens if I apply for another ESTA visa when the old one is still valid, or if I mistakenly made more than one application?
The latest ESTA that’s approved will remain valid. And you will have invalidated your previous visas. So you would lose all the money you paid for the previous ones.
How long does it take to get the result?
The US Department of Homeland Security states that it should take up to 72 hours to be approved. But the system can approve it within seconds, so there isn’t a definite answer. That’s why you should apply in advance and not within 72 hours of your trip.
Otherwise, you run the risk of not being approved before your flight and missing your trip.
The US Department of Homeland Security will inform you via the email address you provided that you’ve been approved or denied in up to 72 hours. The US Department of Homeland Security recommends that you print off the email confirmation and bring it with your passport.
Can somebody else submit my ESTA application with my permission?
Yes, they can.
That option is popular with business travelers or people who have assistants. If you have issues with credit cards or even no internet connection, you can get someone else to complete the application for you.
However, the information they provide must be 100 percent correct. If the information is incorrect in any way, it is solely your responsibility.
Should I print off my documents?
It is an excellent idea to do this. But it’s not a legal requirement.
The US Department for Homeland Security recommends you print off your confirmation PDF email. But they don’t suggest it’s a must-do.
It’s a good idea to have it just in case. Alternatively, you can always show the email confirmation on your phone; just make sure you have enough battery.
How well is my data protected?
The data that you enter when you apply for an ESTA is sensitive. That’s why the information is the highest possible security, and no personal data will go to third parties. The best technology is used to prevent data breaches.
The following information is collected.
- Family name
- First name
- Date of birth
- Email address
- Home address
Do I need an ESTA or the I-94W form?
That depends on how you decide to enter the United States. If you arrive in the United States via air, you will not need an I-94W form. It is the same if you arrive by sea; you will not need an I-94W form.
But if you enter the United States via land, you have to fill out the I-94W form. Therefore, if you enter the border from Canada or Mexico, you should prepare yourself to fill out the I-94W form.
Which payment methods can I use to pay for the ESTA?
You will need a credit card to pay for the application fee; if you don’t have a credit card, someone else will have to pay using their card. Furthermore, the credit card holder’s name doesn’t have to be the same as the passenger.
Can I apply for an ESTA visa at an embassy?
No, you can only apply for an ESTA visa online. And if you don’t have access to the internet or know how to use the internet. You can get someone else to fill the form out for you. But make sure the details are all correct when you do that because that is your responsibility.
What can I do on an ESTA visa?
You can do many things on an ESTA visa; here are some.
If you arrive on an ESTA visa, it will allow you to travel around the United States and meet family or friends. You can even receive medical treatment on an ESTA.
You are allowed to partake in a short course in any subject or field while on an ESTA, just as long as it doesn’t lead to degree credits.
An ESTA will allow you to attend professional events in the United States. These include educational, scientific, business conventions, seminars, and much more. However, you are not allowed to receive any payment for these events.
If you are coming to the United States to speak at a conference, and the conference will pay you – you will have to look for a different visa.
You can attend any social event in many different fields on an ESTA visa. But you cannot receive any form of payment at these events, including payment in the form of gifts.
You can conduct business with clients on an ESTA. So you can negotiate deals and speak to prospective clients while on an ESTA. But you can’t make any investments or start a business while you’re on an ESTA.
My ESTA visa was rejected. What can I do?
You will have to look at other options. That’s why the US Department of Homeland Security recommends that you apply way in advance because you can look at alternatives if the US Department of Homeland Security rejects your ESTA application.
You cannot appeal the rejection or try and get it changed. Once the ESTA is rejected, you should proceed to look at alternative visa options depending on your passport and what eligibility it has.
The ESTA visa-waiver is a fantastic option to avoid going through the hassle of a visa application before flying to the United States.
The process is streamlined and straightforward, but you should apply in advance to avoid disappointment.
It is the best way to visit the United States if you are going on vacation, you are staying for less than 90 days, and you are not going to earn money inside the country.