Why was the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA started?

  • This program was started in the year 1986 by the US government.
  • It was started to encourage short-term tourism in the US.
  • It was also started to encourage business travellers.
  • It was meant to reduce the burden of processing the tourist visa applications of the U.S. state department recourses.
  • Over the years, many countries are introduced in the program and many restrictions are also introduced to enhance the security of the U.S. and its citizens.
  • ESTA was introduced in the year 2008 under the Visa Waiver program.
  • Purpose of ESTA was to electronically process the applications that come under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • With the online process, DHS (department of Homeland security) is able to pre-screen travellers against terrorism and other non-fly lists. This application will not be approved unless you meet all the requirements set by ESTA.

What requirements make the country eligible for the Visa Waiver Program?

The country is eligible for the Visa Waiver Program should fill the following requirements:

  • It should be considered a sovereign state.
  • It should have a high human development index.
  • It should share the security data with the US.
  • It should have a high-income economy.
  • It should face a very low level of passport fraud.
  • It should use strict requirements by using biometric electronic passports.
  • It should have a low number of immigration law violators.
  • It should have low-immigrant visa denial rate.
  • It should have established effective credible counterterrorism and law enforcement policies and border control.
  • It should also have other security-focused organisations that are focused to reduce domestic crime and terrorism.

What is the protocol to be followed by the citizens of VWP countries when visiting the U.S.?

  • They must have approved ESTA.
  • They should visit the US only for a short-term purpose.
  • They must provide the right information.
  • They must not violate any laws of the US else they will have to face legal issues.

What is important to know?

  • It is not a visa and entry to the USA is not granted automatically.
  • An immigration officer will interview – review the traveller at the point of entry.
  • It is needed in both air and sea carriers. No valid if the carrier is not among those reconized by the USA immigration (private flight for example).
  • Even if you have valid ESTA you cannot enter the US you can only board the carrier to the US with ESTA.
  • You can only apply for ESTA Visa if you have a valid passport from one of the country included in the VWP.
  • Its validity stands for 2 years but it can expire earlier if your passport expires or the answer of any eligibility question changes due to change in your situation.
  • You can only stay for 90 days or less in the single visit.
  • You can visit USA with ESTA for tourism, business consultation or negotiation, or medical purpose.
  • Visa is not required if you have an ESTA.
  • You can travel to any 50 states of US as well as Hawaii, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean that fall under the US territory.
  • The application must be submitted at least 72 hours before you start your journey.
  • If you are denied ESTA you can still apply for a B2 tourist visa or B1 business visa to visit the USA.
  • Everyone travelling to the U.S. without a Visa requires ESTA whether they are infants, disabled, unemployed or senior citizens and the will have to pay the same fee.There are no discounts on any grounds.
  • If you have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen after 1st March 2011 or even transited from these countries you will have to apply for a regular visa as you are not eligible for ESTA.