VWP natives must never forget ESTA while traveling to the United States
ESTA is compulsory for citizens of countries connected with VWP. The full form of ESTA is Electronic System for Travel Authorization and VWP is Visa Waiver Program. ESTA is an online system employed to determine visitor’s right to visit US. It is not a Visa to enter the US turf but just an approval.
In general, final decision to allow entry will depend on the Customs and Border officials at point of entry. VWP allows citizens of 38 participating countries to take a trip to America for maximum 90 days Visa-free. Fill ESTA forms online and get an approval but make sure to get familiar with VWP rules.
Why was ESTA introduced?
Due to the 9/11 attacks, Homeland Security department of the US designed ESTA to stop unwanted citizens from VWP countries enter the US. At present, more than 50 million citizens of VWP countries visit America. ESTA has no intention of restricting tourism or commerce but is designed to filter people who are regarded to be security threat for the homeland. Emergency or last-minute travellers from VWP countries get easily accommodated.
How to apply for ESTA?
Visit the official website of ESTA and fill the application form. Make sure to have passport details handy. Form filling takes a few minutes. Submit the form and soon [within 4 seconds] you will get 3 responses regarding your ESTA USA application.
- Authorization approval – It means you got permission to travel to the USA.
- Travel not authorized – It indicates you did not clear and will need to apply for travel visa at the US Consulate or Embassy.
- Authorization pending – More time is needed before decision is made.
After submission, your application is probed against the law enforcement databases in the US. It takes a few seconds to give response.
When to apply for ESTA?
Even though you can apply in emergency because ESTA gets approved in seconds. However, it is recommended that application be submitted within 72 hours prior departure. As soon as your travel dates get determined apply for ESTA because in case your authorization gets denied you get time to apply for travel Visa at US embassy [It can take 6 weeks to get appointment]. ESTA approval is valid for 2 years, so you can apply it for future travel. Even if you will be asked information like airline, flight number or hotel you will stay in the US but all this is optional and will not hinder the application approval process.
What happens if you arrive on US turf without ESTA?
No ESTA means risk of getting detained or/and sent back home. Basically, travelers will not be allowed to board the flight. However, they can quickly visit ESTA website and instantly get their application approved.
Is there a need to fill form I-94?
Travellers from VWP countries visiting the US may be familiar with form I-94 [small green card] that was necessary to be filled. ESTA replaces this requirement to fill this form.
5 ESTA facts to remember
- Even if you are passing through [In transit] fill ESTA form
- ESTA application needs to be completed online
- Keep note of reference number
- Cost is $14 but make sure to use the right card for payment [avoid foreign exchange fees]
- Renew or reapply without fail after 2 years
- ESTA approval does not mean guaranteed entry
Make sure to learn more about ESTA to make your visa free travel experience to the US smooth.