ESTA, The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation in the US has now been running since 2009. The system allows nationals from 38 countries under the Visa Waiver Program to become an eligible tourists to enter the USA. The system was designed for nationals from countries such as The United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, a large number of countries in the EU as well as some Asian countries like Japan & Singapore. While this it not a Visa as such the USA ESTA helps nationals from these countries to enter the USA promptly while maintaining a high level of security for the state.
A USA ESTA issued for an individual from one of the qualifying countries is for the sole purpose of visiting the USA as a tourist. Since a USA ESTA is required for tourists from these 38 countries it is important for you to research the ESTA before travelling. Passengers without either a USA ESTA or a Visa may be denied entry to the US.
To avoid confusion here are 5 important things to know about the USA ESTA:
Do I need an ESTA?
If you are not a citizen of one of the 38 Visa Waiver Program countries then you will require a Visa instead of an USA ESTA and this article is therefore not applicable to you. Check the countries here.
If you are from one of the countries from the VWP you will require a USA ESTA to enter the United States when flying in from another country. This is also the case if you enter the USA by sea. However if you are entering to the US with your car from land either from Mexico or Canada you do not require an ESTA.
How long does it take for the ESTA to come through?
We recommend applying for the USA ESTA at least 3 days in advance since this is what the Department of Homeland Security. However once your application goes through you will usually receive confirmation that it has gone through almost immediately. Either way make sure to write down your confirmation number.
How Much Does it cost?
The price for an ESTA will certainly not break the bank. It now costs $14 through the Official ESTA visa website. Booking through a third party travel agent is also possible but may cost you more than this.
How long does it last?
The ESTA lasts two years, with some exceptions. Firstly in extreme cases it can be revoked. If your passport expires the ESTA will of course no longer be valid. For those who change their name, gender or citizenship or have a new criminal conviction that was not stated on the original form will need to apply again for a new ESTA.
Do I need to show evidence of my ESTA purchase at the airport.
While it is not required to do so, it is recommended just to be on the safe side. Prior to flying, your airline will be aware that your ESTA was approved by the The Department Of Home Land & Security. But as we all know it is always better to be safe than sorry so take a copy of your confirmation document to the check in desk when you fly or at least write down the confirmation number.