How to apply for ESTA
As part of the Visa Waiver Program, individuals wishing to travel to the United States of America must obtain authorization to board the carrier of their choice. For this reason, on January 12, 2009, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) became mandatory, allowing you to apply for ESTA electronically and receive approval online. ESTA is a U.S. government program administered by the Department of Homeland Security to thoroughly check passenger data before approving their right to enter the United States.
What you need to know
- The ESTA is not a visa but a visa waiver.
- It is required for those wishing to enter the United States by air or cruise ship.
- An approved ESTA does not guarantee entry, as constant checks are made on the traveler’s entry.
- Only passport holders from countries participating in the VWP program may apply.
- The ESTA is valid for entry into all 50 U.S. states as well as U.S. territories such as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean.
- Individuals who have been denied the ESTA can still obtain a B2 tourist visa or a B1 business visa to visit the United States.
- Every child and infant must apply for an ESTA and be approved.
- You need an ESTA if you are in transit through the US
- Have a valid passport - Be a citizen of a country participating in the VWP program - Your stay in the US must be less than 90 days - The airline or shipping company you are using must be known to the US government - Have a return ticket, or an onward ticket that does not terminate in an adjacent U.S. territory or island.
How far in advance should I apply and for how long is it valid?
Travelers who wish to apply for ESTA must submit their application online 72 hours prior to their departure for the United States. It usually takes a few minutes to receive a response to your application, whether it is accepted or denied. Travelers must have their ESTA before boarding a plane or ship to the United States. Once approved, the ESTA is valid for two years or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.
Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011, or dual citizens of North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria are no longer eligible for ESTA and must apply for a visa to visit the United States for tourism or business purposes.
The cost of the ESTA is $14 per person. Beware of various websites that charge large amounts and scam people.
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Can I apply for an ESTA myself?
The process can obviously be done by yourself, it’s quite simple and you don’t need to pay extra to a travel agency to do it on your behalf.
As an example, here are some of the information that the person must fill out on the application form:
- Name and gender - Date and place of birth - Nationality - Date and place of birth, date of birth, place of birth and nationality - Passport number and expiration date - Home address - Parents' names - Emergency contacts, name, phone number and address - Place of residence in the United States - Flight number - If you have ever been charged with a crime resulting in substantial property damage or if you have harmed another person. - If you have been denied entry into the United States or a visa application - If you have stayed in the United States longer than the authorized limit
- If you have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since 2011