The Bare Traveller

Applying for ESTA: Step-by-Step Guide to a Hassle-Free Travel Experience

In this article, you will learn how do you apply for a visa to the United States, and what steps must be taken.

L.A.X Los Angeles Airport

A trip to the United States in the works? This country is many people’s dream, from the stunning vistas of the Grand Canyon to the skyscrapers of New York. 

Nevertheless, as you are well aware, crossing the US border cannot be improvised! Each tourist who is not a US citizen must first get a visa, or at least a travel permission called ESTA. Learn all you need to know about ESTA and how to apply for it!

Which visa to acquire to visit to the United States?

The need for a visa for a visit to the United States is determined by various factors, including your nationality, the kind and duration of your visit, and your travel history. 

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

If you are a citizen of France, Belgium, Switzerland or many other participating countries, you are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program i.e. a visa is not required for a tourist vacation to the United States lasting less than three months (90 days).

But who says that visa exemption does imply a complete lack of steps? Another form of paperwork is required: the ESTA authorisation (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This is necessary for any tourist stay of less than 90 days in the United States, even a quick stopover.

Please keep in mind that if you have visited Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, or Syria during 2011, you will be ineligible for ESTA. In this instance, you must apply at the embassy for a B2 visa. Same applies for North Korea.  

Visa Stamps on a French Passport

Other types of Visas

If you want to stay in the United States for more than three months or are not qualified for ESTA, you will need to get a visa. There are several American visas available based on your circumstances: professional framework, cultural exchange, studies, husband/wife of an American citizen, and so on. 

For anybody intending to come to the USA for tourism, it is the B2 visa that must be obtained. To do so, you must fill out the DS-160 form and make an appointment with the US Embassy. The cost of the B2 visa is $160.

The period of the visa might vary from 3 months to several years due to the uniqueness of each application. In any event, be aware that you will need to use a variety of documentation to prove that your trip was a tourist one.

Process and duration of the ESTA's validity

Let’s discuss more ESTA as it’s likely that this is the one you will require for your visit. As you now know, this document serves as a temporary travel authorisation rather than a visa in and of itself. 

The ESTA is valid for two years after it is received. The fact that the 90 days spent on American soil during this time do not have to be consecutive is crucial information to know. These can, in fact, be stretched out across a number of separate stays.

You may spend ten days in New York in December and return for a three-week road trip to California the following summer, for instance. You will still have roughly sixty days left on your ESTA authorization after these two visits.

How can I apply for an ESTA?

The official US Customs and Border Protection website has a form that may be used to submit an ESTA application. You must have a current biometric passport in order to apply, which just takes a few minutes.

The electronic application

Your personal information is requested in the form’s initial section. Make sure the data you enter matches what is on your passport. What we will ask you is as follows: 

  • Identity: last name, first name, sex, birthdate, birthplace, and nation of citizenship; 
  • Passport details include the number, issuing date, and country of origin; 
  • The parents’ last names and first names; 
  • Home address, contact information, and email address; 
  • Employment type, employer name, and contact information for the business; 
  • Address (hotel, Airbnb, etc.) in the United States; 
  • U.S. contact person; 
  • Confirm if the travel to the States is a transit route to somewhere else; 
  • Who you should call in an emergency; 
  • Identifiers from social media (optional).

A series of eligibility questions follows. They may be related to your health, drug usage, a probable criminal background, or your desire to work illegally during your stay. 

Please keep in mind that answering yes to one or more of these questions will almost always result in the ESTA being denied.

U2 Joshua Tree Darwin California

The cost and time required to receive an ESTA

The current cost of ESTA is $21, which corresponds to the application fee. After submitting the form and receiving a good answer, you will get your ESTA authorisation through email within 3 to 5 days. 

Nonetheless, it is best to make your request two or three weeks before your trip, simply to be on the safe side in case of a technical difficulty or error. 

There is no need to print anything once your application is granted because the ESTA is electronically connected to your passport.

Is it possible to change an ESTA application?

Have you just discovered an error, or has your circumstances altered, necessitating the modification of the ESTA? Many possibilities are possible: 

If you are in the process of applying but have not yet paid, remember that you may always return to the form and amend the information of your choosing.

You can still access your file to amend it if your request has already been validated. Nevertheless, only three sorts of information may be changed: the email address, the address supplied in the United States, and the applicant’s address. 

It is consequently necessary to submit a fresh ESTA application if there is a mistake or change in your identification, passport data, or answers to the questions.

Final Thoughts on the United States visa

That’s it; I’ve covered all you need to know about obtaining a tourist visa or an ESTA for the United States. As you can see, the processes are straightforward and quick. You should be aware of the fact the the TSA (Transportation Security Administration) agents are very strict, and I highly recommend to make sure you provide genuine information in your ESTA application to avoid any surprises whilst crossing the U.S. border. 

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