If you are a citizen of a country that is a part of the Visa Waiver Program, or you are someone who is classified as an ‘eligible national’ and you are planning to travel to the USA for pleasure or for certain limited business reasons, then you will need to apply online to get an ESTA before you can enter the country.
The ESTA visa exists in order to ensure that people who are traveling under the visa waiver program are legitimately allowed to do so. The USA ESTA is not the same as the Visa Waiver Program – it is an addition to it, which means that people need to get authorization before thy travel. In theory, this means that there are shorter lines at immigration, and that the customs and border protection staff have a complete picture of each traveler before they arrive in the country.
Applying for a USA ESTA is a relatively quick and simple process, and it’s something that you should do well in advance of your journey. You can do it online, and it is recommended that you apply at least 72 hours before you travel – although it is possible to complete the application at any time before you get on the plane. Most people get a response within just a few seconds of completing the application. Of course, there could be any number of reasons why someone who should be allowed to enter the USA without difficulty may find their application bounced back or held for queries – most of those reasons are simple cases of mistaken identity or errors on the form and can be sorted out very quickly, but it’s still a good idea to fill out the form nice and early to avoid panic or difficulties if you are one of those unlucky people.
Note that if you need a Visa, then you do not have to apply for an ESTA. People who are traveling to work in the USA may need a Visa. Journalists may need a Visa, and those who are staying for longer periods of time could need one too. If you’re not sure whether or not you need one, then you should get in touch with the US embassy in your country and explain your travel plans to them. They will be able to give you a detailed answer, and help you to get the documentation that you need.
The ESTA is mandatory, and has been mandatory since 2009. You will also need to fill out a blue Customs form when you land in the USA, but you will not have to fill out the old I-94W card (this is the green sheet that people used to be given prior to or upon landing in the USA).
An approved ESTA is valid for two years, and you can make multiple trips to the USA on that ESTA, as long as you are traveling on the same passport. If your passport expires, you will need a new ESTA. For Canada electronic visa’s visit canada-eta.co.uk