Why You Need ESTA Visa and How To Apply

Apart from your passport, money and personal belongings, visitors to the US need to apply for ESTA visa before traveling.

What’s ESTA?

ESTA is an online based electronic system that is used to determine whether a person is eligible for traveling to the United States. However, the final decision to authorize entry is made by the Customs and Border Protection officers.

ESTA is mandatory and should be sought by all travelers from countries that are under the Visa Waiver Program.

This program allows people from the countries that are members to visit the United States of America without a visa for up to ninety days.

Why Was ESTA Introduced?

Set in the wake of 9/11 attacks, the United States Department of Homeland Security implemented ESTA with the aim to help prevent undesirable citizens of countries under VWP from entering the US.

This system is not intended to hamper tourism or commerce, but to filter out those individuals considered to be a security threat to the United States.

ESTA Application

ESTA can only be applied online. You should visit the official site and complete the application form. As long as you have your passport details close, it should not take more than 10 minutes.

The application process will give one of these responses:

Authorization Approved- This means you’re cleared to travel to the US.

Travel Not Authorized- You aren’t cleared to travel and you should visit the US Embassy or Consulate to apply for a paper travel visa.

Authorization Pending- The application needs more time before a decision can be made.

How Long Does the Processing Take?

Once you have submitted the ESTA form, it is queried against the US Law database. However, this just takes a few seconds and most of the applications are determined under a minute. Even so, it is advisable to apply at least 72 hours before the day of departure. In fact, it’s better to apply as soon as you decide to travel just in case authorization is denied. That’s because it can take up to 2 months to get an appointment at the US Embassy.

How Long is It Valid?

Esta is valid for up to 2 years unless your passport expires before this period is over. It also allows for multiple entries to the US of up to 90 days each. If you get a new passport during this period, you need to reapply for ESTA.