If you plan to travel to the United States on the basis of ESTA, here is all you need to know before getting started on the ESTA application process.
ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, is in place to determine your eligibility to travel to the United States without requiring a visa. The US Department of Homeland Security introduced this electronic system to facilitate residents of countries on US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) through quick travel and secure travel approval process.
Thus, if you are a resident of the country that is listed on the US Visa Waiver Program list, you are eligible to acquire ESTA, provided you meet the rest of the conditions mentioned:
ESTA document is only intended for temporary stays and allows individuals to stay up to a maximum of 90 days. On the other hand, a US visitor visa allows its holders to stay up to six months. So, if you plan to stay in the country for more than 90 days, you will need to apply for a US visa even if you are a resident of the US VWP country.
Applying for ESTA is valid for two years, and you can travel multiple times during the two-year window, but one trip should not exceed 90 days.
Purpose of travel
An ESTA is not a visa and cannot be used as one, either. It is a document that allows you to enter the country only if you plan to travel for tourism, transit purposes, or business. If you want to travel to the US for any other reason beyond travel or a business commitment, you will need a valid visa for entry.
Current visa status
You also cannot apply for an ESTA if you presently hold a valid US visitor visa, categorised as B-1 or B-2. If you have any of these visas, you are not eligible for ESTA.
Passport validity requirement
To apply for ESTA, you must have an E-passport. E-passports have a digital chip that contains your biometric information. If you do not have an E-passport, you may need to apply for one before you apply for ESTA. It is also required that your E-passport must be valid for more than six months after you intend to depart from the US.
Duration of approval
The process for applying ESTA and getting approval may take up to 72 hours, given all is well with your application and it does not indicate any potential security threats. While you can apply for ESTA anytime, getting started on the application early is better to avoid any inconvenience.