Citizens of Visa Waiver Programs countries can travel to the US via ESTA, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an electronic permit you can use to travel to the USA if you are a passport holder of a country listed on the US visa-free program.
In case you are wondering, the US VWP or Visa Waiver Program comprises a list of 40 countries, the residents of which can obtain visa-free passage to the United States. While residents of these countries wanting to visit the US do not have to go through the process of obtaining a visitor visa, they will need an ESTA to gain entry, provided they fulfill the associated conditions for ESTA.
Conditions for ESTA
If a foreign traveler wants to apply for ESTA, they must have an e-passport valid for at least six months from the day they enter the US. Moreover, the purpose of their visit should be only business, pleasure, or transit through the US. Additionally, the individuals applying for ESTA are only eligible if they will be staying in the country for a period of 90 days or less. Also, they should not have a valid visitor’s visa for the US (B1 or B2).
If you want to apply for ESTA, you must fulfill these conditions. However, if you do not fulfill any one or all of these conditions, you will not be granted ESTA, even if you are a resident of a VWP country.
How is ESTA obtained?
ESTA is an online electronic permit. You can apply for the permit online and must provide your details, including your contact details. The process can only be completed online in a few minutes, and it may take one to three days for a confirmation email to arrive notifying you if your ESTA application has been approved or denied.
Once you receive the approval, you are set to travel. Your ESTA is valid for two years from the date it is formally approved. Therefore, it is better to apply for it well ahead of your planned travel dates so that there are no last-minute inconveniences. Once you arrive in the US via ESTA, you can stay here for a maximum of 90 days. However, you can take multiple times for as long as your ESTA is valid.
At the same time, it is important to remember that an ESTA does not provide a guaranteed passage into the US. The final approval is given by the Customs and Border Protection officials when you arrive.