A trip to the US can be the ideal vacation, but planning for it can also be quite a big task. That is why it is important to prepare in advance and inform yourself. Having your passport, a ticket and your luggage might seem enough, but if you are a visitor it is very important that you also fill in the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).
Why do you need ESTA?
The ESTA application form is compulsory so make sure that you won’t forget about it. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation determines the right of visitors to travel to the US and it is a system that is web-based. Obviously, the final authorisation will be given by Customs and Border Protection officers, but if you are a citizen of a country that has signed up to the Visa Waiver Program.
The program was set after the 9/11 attacks so that citizens that are unwelcome won’t be able to enter America. This program was necessary, since around 50 million people from VWP countries visit America every year. ESTA can filter them, and preserve the security of the United States.
Applying for ESTA and receiving your response
It is very simple to apply for ESTA since everything takes place online. Simply go to the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation website. There you will find an application form waiting for you. It will only take a few minutes to complete it and it will require certain passport details.
You should also know that you won’t have to wait until you get your ESTA response. In fact, it only takes a few seconds to determine if your application is approved. The system will check it based on the US law enforcement databases.
If you get the Authorisation Approved response, then everything is okay and you should be able to travel to the United States. If you receive Travel Not Authorised, then it means that your application has not been accepted. In this case you have to apply for a paper travel visa at a Consulate or US Embassy. Finally, if you see Authorisation Pending, it means that it will take a little more until a decision will be made for your application.
ESTA will remain valid for two years, you don’t have to worry about it expiring. In fact, that is why you should apply for it as soon as you decide to travel to the US. If your application is rejected, you will need to get an appointment at the US Embassy for a visa, and this can take up to six weeks.
Even if you are sure that travel will be authorised for you, you should still apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before you leave. It is recommended that you apply for it before you pay for your travel, so that you won’t spend any money before you are sure that you are allowed to travel.