5 things you need to know about ESTA to US
I hope all my readers do know that I come from Slovakia. Because of my nationality, years ago, it was not so easy to enter the U.S. until 2009 when my country was accepted into the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) by the United States which means that now I only need ESTA to enter the States.
Since then, I managed to visit the US twice already – first the East Coast, then the West Coast and it was only because all I needed was a quick and easy ESTA. Here you can read about my top 6 US destinations which I visited.
In this very practical article I will give you answers to most important questions regarding the ESTA to the U.S.
5 things you need to know about ESTA to US:
1. What countries are accepted into the Visa Waiver Program?
Austria, Australia, Andorra, The United Kingdom, Taiwan, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, South Korea, Slovenia, Singapore, San Marino, Republic of Malta, Portugal, Norway, New Zealand, Netherlands, Monaco, Luxembourg, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Latvia, Japan, Italy, Ireland, Iceland, Greece, Germany, Hungary, France, Finland, Estonia, Denmark, Czech Republic, Chili, Brunei, Belgium and the above mentioned my home country Slovakia.
2. What does it mean if your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program?
Citizens of all these coutries can use ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) to enter the U.S. You just apply for ESTA online and once approved, print the document to carry with you. It’s not necessary to show it at the passport control as the officers can see its electronic version in the computers but some airlines do need to check it before they let you fly. In that case you would need to show a printed ESTA authorization to them as they don’t have any access to it.
3. How long can I stay in the USA with ESTA?
ESTA auhorization is valid for 2 years since the day of approval or until your passport expires (whichever comes first because ESTA states your passport number and then with a new passport number it is not valid any more). If you change your gender, name or nationality, you would need to apply for a new ESTA again.
Although, the validity of ESTA authorization is 24 months, you can only stay in the U.S. up to 90 days. You can enter the U.S. multiple times during the 2-year ESTA approval without having to reapply.
However, if you wish to stay in the USA for longer than 90 days, ESTA is not valid for this and you need to ask for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
ESTA can be used only for holidays or most business trips, NOT for work, study or permanent residence.
4. When should I apply for ESTA?
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends you to apply at least 72 hours before travel but you can apply anytime before your trip. Usually, ESTA is approved within a few minutes of submitting an application.
5. What do I need to apply for ESTA?
The ESTA application process requires personal information from you. This is what you need to fill in the online form:
- Information about the traveler (name, home address, phone number)
- Information from the traveler’s valid passport (you need to have a machine readable passport)
- A valid email address where the ESTA pdf document will be sent
- A credit or debit card for ESTA payment
Once you submit all the information and also submit the payment, your information will be reviewed and if approved, you will get an email with your ESTA authorization which now allows you to travel to the U.S. Usually, it’s a very fast process.