On your marks, get set, ESTA! | The one minute dash to the US

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an online program which anyone from a visa waiver country is required to have if traveling to the US without a visa. ESTA does not guarantee automatic admission into the US, that will be determined by Customs on your arrival.

Just like VWP, citizens from visa waiver countries who apply for and are granted ESTA, can travel to the US on short notice, without a visa for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. ESTA aids DHS in screening all non-US citizens arriving the country by plane or ship. Although, you can apply for an ESTA at the point of departure, since it takes about one minute for a response to your application, it is advisable to apply within 72 hours before departure and keep a printed version of your application status for security purposes.

APPLICATION ESTA is pretty easy. There are several non government agencies which offer consultancy services for this, their fees usually include the standard $14 charged by the US government per application. You can make the application individually or in group.

The first step in APPLICATION ESTA, is to find out your eligibility status, that is if your country is one of the visa waiver countries. Currently only citizens from these countries are eligible: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Japan,Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand. Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom (England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales). So, if you are a national of any of these countries and don’t already have a visitor’s visa, you will be eligible to apply.

Once your eligibility has been confirmed, you can visit the APPLICATION ESTA official website, and begin your online application process, of course you will need an operational email to receive your authorization details. If using a third party agency’s website, be sure they are genuine. You will need a valid passport from your home country, a valid credit card (MasterCard or VISA), or debit card, or PayPal, or any other acceptable means for paying the standard application fee of $14 per application, but usually more at third party sites. Since April this year, citizens wishing to benefit from the VWP must use an e-passport in applying for ESTA. If you have no idea what an e-passport is, chances are high you do not have one, but it is easily identifiable due to it’s micro chip and unique international symbol on the front. Furthermore, the application will require your valid and current biodata (names, gender, marital status, etc), contact information, and where applicable, current employment details.

There is a short yes/no security section which must be answered, regardless of how strange the questions may seem. The application will request for the address where you’ll be staying during your visit. Since it’s likely you are yet to conclude on that during application, you can just fill ‘unknown’ and update it when accommodation has been concluded.

The APPLICATION ESTA can be completed within ten minutes, and you will receive your application status response within 24 hours, some have received response in a minute.

Peradventure, you are unable to complete your application same day, you can always return to the website to resume. It should be noted however, that payment for application must be concluded within seven days of applying. Where any information given for an application changes, a new ESTA has to be applied for, also where a new passport is issued, a new ESTA has to be applied for.

Not all ESTA applications are granted, reasons for denial could be incorrect answers to application questions, applying using details of previously lost or stolen passport, using a previously approved ESTA to do authorized work in the US during your last visit, or going against ESTA principles like staying beyond the 90 days bracket.

A denied ESTA application does not bar anyone from reapplying after 24 hours or going the lengthy traditional visa route.

An approved ESTA application is valid for only two years and only one year in Greece, and you can return to the US during that time but within the 90 days frame. Also, you must have at least six months left on your visa after the your return from the US. When your ESTA expires, you can simply apply for a new one and there is no limit to the number of applications for an individual or group.

As the US government, works on providing speedy ESTA services, you can now rest your mind when it comes to meeting deadlines or executing new business ideas across the ocean.

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