ESTA or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a requirement for anyone entering the United States of America from a visa-exempt country. Only nationals from the Visa Waiver Program countries will need to apply for ESTA as all nationals from other countries require a visa to visit the US. ESTA was established to give the Department of Homeland Security additional information about people traveling to the United States on the visa waiver program.
How Do You Apply?
Applying for ESTA is done online and will require personal information along with information about your passport. To apply you will need to go to the ESTA website and follow all of the instructions there. You will need to pay an application fee when you submit your application and this is also done only.
Does ESTA Approval Mean The Traveler Can Enter The USA?
It is important to note that an approved ESTA application does not automatically give the traveler the right to enter the USA. This approval only gives the traveler the authorization to board a carrier heading to the USA. Entry to the country will still be determined by CBP officers at the point of entry and travelers can still be refused entrance to the country at this point.
When Should You Apply?
It is recommended that you apply at least 72 hours before you are going to be traveling. In most cases, a response to the application will be received within minutes of submission. However, there are times when applications will take longer to process and you need to allow time for this. There is also the chance that your application is rejected and you will need to amend your travel plans.
How Long Is It Valid?
An approved application will be valid for 2 years or until the passport the application is linked to expires. During the 2 year time period the traveler will be able to enter the United States as many times as they please without having a new application approved. However, if a new passport is issued then a new ESTA application will need to be submitted.
Do You Need A Printed Copy Of Approval?
Travelers with approved applications do not have to take a printed copy of the approval with them when traveling. The authorization is linked to an e-passport and will be seen when the passport is scanned. However, it is recommended that a printout be taken as proof of their ESTA status.