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Located in North America, the USA along with its 50 states that boast natural scenic views, cosmopolitan cities, and stunning countrysides, there are certainly a lot of things this country can offer thus it has been a popular destination for years.
If you’re planning to visit the USA, there might be few things you need to do before your trip and one of it is to apply for ESTA visa to avoid the hassle before your flight.
In this post, we are giving you a detailed guide on how to apply for ESTA USA visa!
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Table of Contents
- 1 Step-by-Step Guide: How to Apply for ESTA USA Visa
- 2 Frequently Asked Questions
- 2.1 How long does it take to get approved?
- 2.2 How early can I apply visa for the USA?
- 2.3 Will there be an interview?
- 2.4 What happens if I get denied?
- 2.5 What is the Visa Waiver Program?
- 2.6 What happens if ESTA expires after arrival in the US?
- 2.7 Do I need a confirmed tour itinerary before applying for ESTA?
- 2.8 Do children need to apply for ESTA?
- 2.9 Does ESTA assure admission to the US?
- 2.10 Can you check if your ESTA is still valid?
- 2.11 Do I need an ESTA to travel to the USA?
- 2.12 Do I need a visa to visit the USA from the UK?
- 3 Are you on Pinterest? Pin these for later read!
Step-by-Step Guide: How to Apply for ESTA USA Visa
Visiting the USA as a tourist
All passengers who are visiting the US from VWP countries need to apply for Travel Authorization before they are traveling to the US by land, air, or sea. Travel Authorization is also mandatory for children who do not need a ticket to travel yet.
We highly recommend you to complete the ESTA process as soon as you prepare to travel to the US. You need to complete the ESTA process around 72 hours before traveling. You can submit your ESTA application at any time before entering the US.
Interesting read: Places to visit in Florida
What is a tourist visa in the USA
The ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an online ESTA application process developed to pre-screen the travelers by the US government who are wishing to enter America. Visitors who are traveling under the Visa Waiver Program should apply for Travel Authorization before entering the US, since January 2009.
In addition, all visitors should opt for a machine-readable passport that offers valid admittance to the country.
The ESTA application process can be completed online and is operated by the DHS or Department of Homeland Security. You will need to enter biographical information during the ESTA application process. You will also have to answer queries regarding eligibility for VWP status. Be sure to complete ESTA as soon as you start making plans to travel to the US.
STEP 1: Determine the type of visa that you need to enter the USA
There are around 185 types of visas out there and US visas are available in two different categories. An immigrant visa is available for people who want to immigrate to the US and a Non-immigrant visa is available for temporary visas like the business, tourism, work, studies, and visiting family.
In general, a citizen of a foreign country who wants to enter the US should first obtain a visa, either an immigrant visa for permanent living or a nonimmigrant visa for a short stay.
If you are a visitor, you can apply for non-immigrant visas for the ones who want to enter the US for business, i.e. B-1 visa, for tourism, i.e. B-2 visa, or for both B-1 and B-2.
Nationalities who can obtain a tourist visa on arrival and for how long
The United States Government started the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with which citizens of some countries can travel to the US for business, tourism, or when in transit for 90 days at least without obtaining a visa. The program applies to the US territories of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands in the Caribbean and the United States, with limited application to other territories in the US.
Nationalities who need to apply and obtain a visa before their arrival to the USA
All travelers who are planning to enter the US from all other nations need a passport on arrival (no matter which country they live in). Foreign nationals and permanent residents may also need a visa before arrival.
EVUS visa for citizens from the Republic of China
If you, however, is from the Republic of China then you need to apply for the EVUS visa. You can follow this EVUS application guide to know more about the process in order to obtain this type of visa.
STEP 2: Requirements checklist which you need to read before you start applying
Here are the documents needed to prepare before preparing for visa interview –
- Passport– Be sure your passport is valid for up to 6 months to travel to the United States beyond your term of stay in the US (unless it is exempt by agreements with your home country). Each traveler who is looking for a visa should submit an application, including family members who are listed in the passport.
- Application for receiving payment, if needed to pay before the interview.
- Form DS-160 page, non-immigrant visa application.
- Photo –Complete the Form DS-160ESTA online and upload your photo. In case it is not uploading, bring one in the format in Photograph Requirements.
Other documents you may need to submit
On the official website of the Consulate or US Embassy, see the instructions on how to apply. You may need to establish other documents if you are qualified. These documents should have proof of the following:
- Your intent to leave the US after the trip,
- Purpose of your trip, and/or
- Your ability to bear all the expenses during the trip.
Proof of your family and/or your employment ties might be sufficient to show your trip’s purpose and your intent to get back to your home country. If you are unable to cover all costs for the trip, you may need to show evidence that another person can cover all or some of the costs for the trip.
Note– Visa applicants should qualify on the basis of ties and residence of the applicant, instead of assurances from US friends and family. An Affidavit of Support or letter of invitation is not required to apply for a visitor visa.
If you prefer to bring an Affidavit of Support or letter of invitation to your interview, be sure to keep in mind that it is not among the factors in deciding whether to deny or issue the visa.
Here are the requirements to obtain ESTA
- You should apply around 72 hours before traveling.
- You should hold an e-Passport (which contains a chip) or a machine-readable passport. If not, you should have a visa.
- Accurate details on ESTA application.
- In case your ESTA is denied, you should get a visa.
- You will not need ESTA if you have a US visa already.
- You need to apply for ESTAwith Homeland Security online.
STEP 3: Apply for your visa
Where to send your application?
You need to fix an appointment for a visa interview at Consulate or US Embassy in your home country. You may fix an interview at another Consulate or US Embassy. Keep in mind that it may not be easy to qualify for a visa out of your home country.
How much will it cost you?
The cost for US ESTA is US$14. In addition, you need to pay US$15 as a service fee for normal processing. For super fast processing, you need to pay US$45 to US$65.
STEP 4: Patiently wait for your visa
Once you’ve passed your application online, the waiting game starts. That said, the process shouldn’t take so long and you’ll know the decision via email once it is ready.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take to get approved?
An ESTA online application is processed quickly and most of the applications take only a minute to submit. In some cases, the decision on the application may be delayed by around 72 hours.
How early can I apply visa for the USA?
It is highly recommended for applicants to start the process of application around 3 months before the intended travel date. Appointments are usually not available for 2 to 3 months. The ESTA is valid for around 2 years after the date of the issue.
Therefore, you need to enter the US in 2 years at least. This visa is available for several entries and allows for a stay of 90 days for each entry.
Will there be an interview?
You will need to undergo an interview from the consular officer to figure out whether you are qualified to get a visitor visa. You need to meet the requirements to get a visa under US law. Digital, ink-free fingerprint scans are taken in the process of application.
Usually, they are taken on your interview, but it varies according to location. After the visa interview, the consular officer may figure out whether your application needs further administrative process. The consular officer will keep you informed in case it is needed.
After seeking visa approval, you may want to pay a fee for visa issuance (if it is applicable to your country) and make arrangements for the return of visa and passport.
What happens if I get denied?
In case your ESTA application is denied, you will need to apply for a visitor visa in the United States, including a B-2 Tourist visa.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) starts the Visa Waiver Program and it enables eligible nationals or citizens of designated countries to enter the US for business or tourism. In addition, they can stay for around 90 days without getting a visa.
What happens if ESTA expires after arrival in the US?
It has nothing to do with your departure if your ESTA expires after arrival in the US. Once you have left, you will have to renew ESTA to reenter the US.
Do I need a confirmed tour itinerary before applying for ESTA?
No, there is no need to have a confirmed tour plan (flights or anything) before applying for ESTA.
Do children need to apply for ESTA?
Yes, ESTA is required for children, no matter they are accompanied or unaccompanied, and despite their age, before traveling to the US. Children who are listed on the passport of their parents do not qualify for ESTA. Children should have their unexpired passport to qualify for ESTA USA.
Does ESTA assure admission to the US?
After approval of ESTA, it only mentions that you can travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, but it does not guarantee admission to the US. On your arrival to the US, you will undergo inspection by Immigration officer, who will determine you are admissible under any US law and/or Visa Waiver Program.
Can you check if your ESTA is still valid?
The ESTA Visa USA is valid for around 2 years or until the expiry of the traveler’s passport, whichever is earlier. Here are the steps to see your ESTA application status–
- Visit the official CEAC website
- Enter the barcode of 13 digits from ESTA visa application
- Enter either case number of an immigrant visa or interview location (non-immigrant visa)
- Confirm ESTA status.
Do I need an ESTA to travel to the USA?
If you belong to a VWP country and traveling by land to the US, there is no need to apply for ESTA. If you are entering the US by sea or air, you need to apply for ESTA. If you do not belong to a VWP country, you need to have a visa and ESTA is not applicable to you.
Do I need a visa to visit the USA from the UK?
With ESTA, UK citizens can visit the US for business, tourism, treatment, transit, and short-term study without a visa for around 90 days per entry.
An ESTA is needed before boarding the ship or flight to the US and it should be applied for around 72 hours before departure.
Looking for a awesome place to visit in the US? Read our New York City guide and all the must visit places to visit in the city!
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Founder of Pretty Wild World and one of the leading experts in Europe travel, the Nordics, and Scandinavia Destinations.
Evan Kristine has been mentioned in big publications such as The Huffington Post and the Thought Catalog has been sharing her useful travel tips and hacks to the world for more than five years now.
Nowadays, she is a full-time traveler exploring and documenting her journey around the world providing you the next best travel idea for your great next adventure.