If you are planning to travel to the United States, you may be wondering whether you need an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) in order to enter the country. ESTA is a tool used by the United States government to assess the suitability of foreign nationals seeking to enter the country via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
In this article, we will explain the requirements for obtaining an ESTA and whether it is necessary for you to have one in order to enter the United States.
What Is ESTA And How Does It Work?
ESTA is an online system that was established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in order to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program. It allows DHS to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP before they depart for the United States.
To apply for an ESTA, you will need to complete an online application on the VisaHQ website. The application will ask you to provide personal information such as your name, date of birth, passport details, and contact information. You will also be required to answer questions about your travel plans, including the purpose of your trip and where you will be staying in the United States.
Once you have completed the application, you will need to pay a processing fee using a credit card or debit card. DHS will then review your application, and you will receive a notification of the decision via email. If your application is approved, you will receive an ESTA authorization number, which you will need to present at the airport when you check in for your flight to the United States.
Who Needs An ESTA?
ESTA is required for citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Currently, there are 39 countries that participate in the VWP, including most European countries, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
If you are a citizen of a country that participates in the VWP, you will need to have an ESTA in order to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for stays of 90 days or less. However, if you are planning to stay in the United States for longer than 90 days or if you will be engaging in activities other than tourism or business, such as studying or working, you will need to obtain a visa from a U.S. embassy or consulate.
Requirements For Obtaining An ESTA
To be eligible for an ESTA, you must meet the following requirements:
You must be a citizen of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program.
You must hold a valid passport from a VWP country. Your passport must remain valid for at least 6 more months.
You must have a round-trip ticket to the United States.
You must not have a criminal record or be considered a security risk by the United States government.
You must not have previously violated the terms of the Visa Waiver Program.
If you do not meet these requirements, you will not be eligible for an ESTA and will need to apply for a traditional visa.
How Long Does It Take To Get An ESTA?
The processing time for an ESTA application varies, but most applications are reviewed, and a decision is made within 72 hours. However, it is recommended that you apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before your planned departure to the United States, as processing times can vary, and you want to ensure that you have enough time to receive your ESTA authorization before your trip.
If your application is approved, your ESTA authorization will be valid for multiple entries within the next two years. It is important to note that an ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. You may still be subject to inspection by a Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry, and the officer has the final authority to determine whether you are admissible to the United States.
What If My ESTA Application Is Denied?
If your ESTA application is denied, you will not be able to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. However, you may still be able to travel to the United States by obtaining a traditional B1/B2, L1, F1, or any other type of visa.
If your ESTA application is denied, you will receive an email notification explaining the reason for the denial. You can appeal the decision by contacting the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP). Moreover, your travel authorization might be denied if your ESTA application form is incomplete or has errors and mistakes. So, make sure to double-check your provided information prior to submitting your application.