Distinguishing the electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) from U.S. visas
Do you intend visiting the United States for 90 days or less for business or pleasure? Are you a citizen or national (passport holder) of a Visa Waiver Country? Then you eligible to travel to the United States. The U.S. Visa Waiver Program has made this possible.
In recent times, applying for entry to the U.S. have been challenging, due to increased screening of applicants. Visitors from most countries need a Visa to gain entry; this can be a B-1 business Visa or B-2 tourist Visa.
The U.S. visa application process involves filling several application forms and a personal interview at a U.S embassy or consulate. Also, documents showing strong-ties to an individual’s home country are required in the visa application process.
As a United States government program, the Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of 38 countries, without obtaining a visa to access the U.S for 90 days, for visiting or business purposes. The 90 days period also include time spent in Bermuda, Canada, the Caribbean islands, and Mexico. There are presently thirty-eight countries participating in this program.
What is ESTA?
Often referred as a visa, ESTA isn’t a visa. Rather, it is an automated system used in the Visa Waiver Program to determine visitor’s eligibility to enter the United States. ESTA denotes Electronic System for Travel Authorization and has been used by travelers since August 2008 following the ‘9/11 Commission Act of 2007’ implementation. To determine the eligibility of each visitor (including babies), ESTA collects biographic information . Travelers may be denied check-in without an ESTA, except when arriving at the U.S. by land from Mexico or Canada. The ESTA application process differs entirely from the U.S. visa application process.
Using a U.S. Tourist Visa to gain entry into the United States have some advantages over using the Visa Waiver Program. One advantage is the alternative to extend one’s stay above the stipulated 90 days period on the visa waiver program. Another is the option to change status.
With the Visa waiver program, an individual can enter the United States on short notice, bypassing the rigors and time spent on applying for a visa. ESTA authorizes multiple entries, unlike visas which do not even though they can span through a period of 6 months to 1 year. The ESTA grants travelers an unlimited number of trips over a two years period to the U.S. Read this article about Esta United Kingdom and other countries.
When should an ESTA application be submitted?
It is recommended that a visitor to the U.S should apply for this program as soon as the travel plan comes to mind or before purchasing airline tickets. It is also possible to obtain one at the airport of departure.
What is the Cost of Obtaining as ESTA?
To obtain an ESTA, a payment of $14 has been required since 2010. Previously available for free, the introduced charge due to the Travel Promotion Act constitutes a $4 administrative fee and $10, going to the Corporation for Travel Promotions.
Is the application through ESTA a guarantee to U.S entry?
No. Admission to the U.S. isn’t guaranteed with authorization via ESTA. At arrival, officers of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ascertain a travelers’ admissibility.