What is An ESTA and Why Do You Need One?
If you are heading to the US this year, there is a very important requirement which you must ensure that you have before touching down on American soil, an ESTA. This stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation and it is required by all residents of any country which is classed as being under the Visa Waiver Program. This requirement came about in the wake of 9/11 and there are 38 countries which have signed up to the program. If you are going to the States, you should first check to see if your country is part of the program, and then ensure that you have your ESTA before you leave home. Let’s have a look into more about the ESTA and what you need to do in order to get your hands on one.
As aforementioned, the ESTA came into play in 2008 following the ‘Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commissions Act’ the idea behind this was to further increase national security in the United States. The idea of the ESTA is not only to better vet the people who are entering into the US, but also as a way to speed up the process at the border. Visitors need to apply for this requirement on the website, and then Homeland Security will review your application before granting permission to enter. At this point, the US government can review who you are, what criminal history you may have, and any other information which could be pertinent in terms of them allowing you to enter. Assuming you have no red flags next to you name, you’ll be granted the ESTA.
Once you head to the website, you will need to fill out some personal information including your passport number, and then answer some questions about your travel history and your reasons for traveling to the United States. The application process is very simple and speedy and once you have submitted your application, you will be given a reference number as you wait for confirmation. In most cases you will be approved straight away, or within 15-20 minutes. In some cases the authorities may take a longer period of time, up to 48 hours in fact. If you don’t have your approval straight away, don’t panic, just be patient.
An ESTA will last for 2 years from the date of approval, after which time you will need to repeat the process and apply again. During this 2 years period you will be free to enter into the USA as many times as you like.
To apply for an ESTA you must pay a $14 admin cost, regardless of whether your application is approved or not, you will need to pay this sum when you apply, and it will not be reimbursed.
Not having your ESTA when you arrive in the USA could see you being refused entry to the country, don’t run the risk of this happening and make sure that you have your ESTA well in advance of your trip.