Many tourists head to the USA from every corner of the world each year for all kinds of different holidays. From beach holidays in Miami, canyon explorations near Las Vegas, sightseeing in New York, or theme park holidays in Orlando — there are so many different reasons to visit the US. (Visa free)
And to date, the United States Department of Homeland Security operates with a visa system to monitor entry into the US as part of their strong security policies. But did you know? Citizens from certain countries can visit the US visa-free!
This is an agreement between the DHS and authorities from other countries to be in what is called the Visa Waiver Program. There are currently 29 countries that are members of the VWP, including many European countries, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand.
To become part of the VWP, countries needed to meet certain criteria such as the rate of visa denials for the country, as well as other details such as how economically strong the country is. The DHS constantly reviews who the members of the VWP are, and countries can get added if they meet the required criteria.
Visa FREE Travel Program
» How does the Visa Waiver Program Works?
For citizens of countries within the VWP, they are able to apply for an ESTA instead of applying for a visa, which is a much quicker and easier process.
This ESTA is available for people who want to visit the USA for tourism or business purposes and won’t be staying in the country for any longer than 90 days in total.
Applying for the ESTA is very straightforward and can be completely done online, reducing the processing time that you have with paperwork when dealing with visas, etc. You simply need to fill in the online ESTA form here https://www.estaform.org/, which takes around 20 minutes to do.
The form simply requires your personal information and passport details, and you will also answer some questions related to eligibility — for example, any criminal convictions or medical conditions.
Once you fill in the form, you will then pay the fee and submit your application. After that, you will usually get a response within 72 hours; sometimes, often even sooner. During that time, the Department of Homeland Security reviews your application to determine whether you pose a risk to the US — and if they are happy that you do not, your ESTA will be approved.
An approved ESTA links electronically to your passport and when you go through the Custom and Border Protection, you will only need to show your passport and the agents will be able to see on their systems that you have a valid ESTA attached to your passport.
» Restrictions of ESTA
Whilst an ESTA provides a very convenient way for many tourists and business people to enter the US visa free, there are some restrictions that may mean that you would need to apply for a visa for your US trip instead.
For example, you are only allowed to stay in the US for up to 90 days, so if you wanted to stay longer than that, you would need to apply for a tourism visa instead.
You are also not allowed to work or study in the US when you enter using an ESTA, so you would rather require either a working visa or a student visa if you are intending to work or study there. Your ESTA will stay valid for two years, or until your passport expires if that date is sooner.
When you get your ESTA, you can travel around the US with it, to as many states as you choose to, as long as you do not overstay the limit. If you overstay then it could prevent you from being able to get another ESTA in the future.
» Why is ESTA easier than a Visa?
As well as being quicker to process, the ESTA is all done digitally which means you do NOT have to go to the US Embassy. It certainly saves you time and effort. After all, when you apply for a visa, you would have to attend an interview at the US Embassy, which can take a while to schedule.
You are also usually required to produce relevant documents to support your visa application. Not to mention that applying for a visa also costs more, so by applying for ESTA you will save money on getting travel authorization to visit the US.
Moreover, instead of taking weeks, or even months to get your visa, you can get an ESTA within just a few minutes, making it a very convenient way to visit the US visa-free! You can also use the ESTA for multiple trips to the US, as long as it is still valid.
That being said, there are many great advantages of using an ESTA, so if you want to apply for one for your next trip to the US, all you need to do is head to the website mentioned above and fill in all of your details.