ESTA Authorization is the easiest way to visit the United States of America.
In January 2009, the U.S. Government set the Visa Waiver Program applicable now to 39 countries from all over the world. The main aim is to ease the travel flow by offering an alternative to the visa application. A faster, cheaper and free of stress way to obtain an online travel permit – the ESTA.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA is an online document approved in only a couple of hours. It is valid for a period of two years and what is even better, it allows multiple visits to the USA during the time of its validity.
All you need is a passport with a chip holding your biometric information, a credit card and an internet connection. Yes, only this. You can then apply for your ESTA USA from your office, or during a party, or even from the waiting room at your dentist. The process of completing the ESTA application and sending it for approval takes no more than 20 minutes.
Although obtaining an ESTA is easy and fast, or because it is easy and fast, you have to pay attention when filling the application form.
- Names on the application form: the rule here is pretty straightforward – put the names as they are on the passport you will be travelling with. Sounds obvious, however a lot of people put only one if their first names. Regarding the surname, again, often only one of all is mentioned. This might cost the entry to the USA. Remember, as the process of applying is electronic, the missing of one or more of the names will be spotted upon arrival, at the American airport. If not allowed to proceed, you will have to wait for the next flight back home;
- Visiting Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan or Yemen: you need to know that having been to one or more of these states does not mean that you are not allowed to travel to and visit the USA. If this is your case, you will have to apply for a regular visa at the Embassy, instead of an ESTA. This rule applies to people having travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Syria, Sudan or Yemen after February 2011. And it applies to all – tourists, journalists, NGO representatives, businessmen, and politicians. Even for Javier Solana, who, in the summer 2018 tried to apply unsuccessfully for his own ESTA, which was then refused due to a visit to Iran in 2013 as part of country’s nuclear program talks;
- Travelling with kids: you need to know that your kids, even if minors, need an ESTA Authorizations on their own. They can’t travel to the USA under your passport and travel permit, so be sure that they have their own valid electronic passports and online travel authorizations ESTA;
- The right time to apply: ESTA is easy and fast to obtain. Until 2018, applying was possible upon arrival in the USA, right at the airport. This is no longer possible as the U.S. Customs and Border Protection set a minimum time frame for the online travel authorizations’ approval of 72 hours. Although 90% of the applications get approved in 2 or 3 hours, sometimes it takes much longer to know one’s travel status. What can you to do if 3 days before the dream trip to the USA the ESTA is rejected? In order to have time to apply for a visa through the Embassy, we highly advise you to complete your ESTA Application a month earlier. This way you will be able to get a visa in case your online travel permit is not authorized;
- Travelling in transit or staying: With ESTA being valid for two years and allowing multiple visits to the USA, one can doubt if the same document can be used for travelling in transit and for visiting the country. The short answer is YES. You can use one document for both occasions. If you complete your document adding the contact details to the U.S., next time you travel, make sure you have added the new contact to the existing ESTA. If you will be travelling in transit though, note that it is impossible to change the travel status to an existing document. You can however travel with it, no matter if the information regarding the travel status and the address to the USA are not correct.