What is ESTA

The Department of Homeland Security – DHS in consultation with the state department permits the citizens of 38 countries that are approved under the Visa Waiver Program, permits the citizens of these countries to travel to the US for the purpose of tourism or business for the period of not more than 90 days without a visa.

ESTA i.e. Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an automated system that determines the eligibility of the traveller to visit the U.S. as per the guidelines of the Visa Waiver Program. To attain ESTA, one needs to submit an online application that helps the US government to evaluate if the traveller is fit to visit the US or not.

ESTA does not determine if the traveller is permitted to enter the US or not, it only allows boarding the flight or ship to the US. Even if you have ESTA you can be denied entry to the US by CBP officer at the border. You must apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before your travel. It is important to remember that it’s always better to buy your flight tickets after receiving the ESTA approval.  The WVP has been introduced to ease the access to the travel permit but also to increase the security and safety of the United States.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

The ESTA Authorization is not a visa. It does not grant entry to the U.S. It only pre-screens you in order to eliminate the same process at the border. If the CBP Agents think it is necessary, they may need to ask additional questions. Please, note that if you own a valid visa you don’t need ESTA.

If under any circumstances your ESTA is denied then you are required to apply for a regular, non-immigrant visa at the US Embassy or some of the consulates. It is always advisable to book your tickets only once you get your ESTA.

Citizens of the 38 countries that are approved under a Visa Waiver Program are authorized to travel with valid ESTA to the US. Other eligibilities of ESTA are as follows:

  • If you enter the United States as a non-immigrant.
  • If you enter the US only for 90 days.
  • If you enter the US for tourism.
  • If you have the return ticket or the ticket to continue your journey to different location that does not fall under the territory of US.
  • If you are not considered as a threat to the U.S. or to the citizens of the U.S. in terms welfare, health or security by CBP.
  • The final decision related to enter the U.S. lies in the hand of CBP officer at the entry point. To enter the U.S. you will have to prove yourself as qualified candidate in front of the officer at the border and if he/she is not satisfied and finds anything that is not expectable you might be denied entry   even if you hold a valid ESTA.
  • If you waive any rights to review or appeal you can enter U.S. while you are holding electronic authorization.
  • If you want to re-affirm your waiver of rights upon arrival then you must submit personal information for example fingerprints and images that can personally identify you.
  • If you have confirmed and you meet all the requirements of your last admission under VWP.

At first instance ESTA may look like a visa that can lead to confusion but ESTA or Electronic visa are two different documents.  In order to strengthen the border and internal security the US government has put in place the online intelligence system to control the movement of the people across the country and stop the individuals to even travel to the US.

Electronic authorisation system is a travel document that allows the nationals of the states with the countries that are approved under the Visa Waiver Program to make short stays in the US.

VWP allows the nationals from 38 participating countries mostly from the western and northern Europe and also Chile Japan and New Zealand to enter the US without a Visa.   Under this program, you are only allowed to stay in the US for maximum of 90 days only for tourist purpose or general business. Unlike a visa, the ESTA Authorization allows the US immigration service to control who wants to come into the country and for what reasons.

It is also important and advisable that you apply for ESTA a month in advance to avoid any last minute issues.  ESTA is much faster process and saves a lot of time. But in case your ESTA is denied you will have to apply for a USA Visa.

In order to obtain a visa, you will have to face an interview with the consular officer where as for ESTA you will have to only fill an online application with some basic information. For the B1 and B2 visas there are comparatively several formalities including an interview with the Consular officer.

  1. Fill in the ESTA application form and verify the details entered.
  2. Make the payment online.
  3. The document will be sent to your email address.

The organization responsible for approval of ESTA is the American Service of Immigration. This procedure normally does not take much time.
A person is recommended to apply for the ESTA minimum 72 hours before boarding a flight. This helps to avoid unnecessary delays and clears any confusion regarding the ESTA approval.

USA Example 1: Tara
Tara is able to attain the benefits of the Visa Waiver Program since she is the citizen of Australia. As Australia is one of the visa-exempt countries, Tara will be able to travel to the United States holding only her online travel permit. Tara applied for the travel permit using her tablet, at home. It took her 15 minutes to complete the whole process including filling the application form, verifying the information on it and paying via her credit card, and in 40 minutes, Tara received the approved ESTA document on her personal email.

ESTA USA visa Example 2:  Philip
Philip is a French citizen. He’s been a USA enthusiast throughout is life is planning to celebrate his 60th birthday in Loss Angeles. All his previous tour to the USA were covered by a B1 Tourists Visa. The visa is attainable from the US embassy through online submission and meeting with the Embassy’s agents.
This time, Philip decided to go faster and easier and applied for an ESTA Authorization. In half an hour, Philip had his approved ESTA Authorization sent to his email.

It is to remind that in specific cases holders ESTA required to be renewed prior to the validity time period. Any changes or modification in the name or sex, or the country where the holder of the ESTA belongs needs the renewal of the ESTA. In addition, any short of change and renewal of the passport that is associated with ESTA result in the necessity of the renewal of ESTA.

ESTA USA visa  Example 1: Dimitrios
Dimitrios, a Greek citizen, answered negatively to a question which asked him if he had faced any judicial problems.
Although, years ago he was involved in a traffic accident, there has been a police record filled in.
In this case, his ESTA document has been denied and Dimitrios had to visit the U.S. Embassy in order to obtain a regular visa.

USA  Example 2: Brenda
Brenda McKay resides in Melbourne, Australia and is a frequent traveller to San Francisco for work purposes. She always uses her ESTA for this.
After she has married, she added her husband’s surname to hers.
Later, they decided to spend a month in New York.
As Brenda has changed her names, she has also changed her passport and now, although her ESTA Authorization is still valid, she will have to apply again in order her new travel document to include her new names and new passport number.

Your passport is the only travel document which attests to your identity and considered valid internationally. A person will have to apply for a new ESTA in the events of passport renewal or information modification in passport. The passport expiration date is also significant and to be kept in mind while applying for ESTA.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Charles
Charles, a UK citizen had obtained his travel document seven months ago for the very first time while visiting Las Vegas with his friends. On returning from the US, he realized that he was going to have to renew his passport as it was going to expire.
Now, with his passport renewed, he can’t use the existing ESTA for his upcoming trip even though it hadn’t crossed the validity period of two years. He must apply for a new ESTA for transit in USA. As the ESTA is associated with the passport, it needs new approval after passport renewal.

USA Example 2: Maria
Maria, a Chilean citizen visited US with her husband on their vacation about nine months ago using an ESTA travel document linked to her Chilean passport.
After their marriage, Maria along with her husband, Alex, shifted to Sydney. Since then, she has also received citizenship of Australia. She wanted to visit Chile during the holiday season but has to make a transit in New York on route to Chile. Now that she has a new passport and residence, she will no longer be able to use her old ESTA. She will have to apply for a new ESTA and update the information accordingly.
There is no need to apply for a visa from the American embassy if your duration of stay in the USA does does not exceed the period of 90 days. The ESTA can be applied online and is a far cost-effective and an easier procedure. However, this travel authorisation is a necessary obligation.

USA Example 1: Millie
Approximately 10 years earlier, Millie had visited Chicago on a type B tourist visa from the U.S. Embassy. Her Visa permitted a 180 days of stay during a calendar year.
Recently, she plans to visit the US again for at least four weeks. She learned from the ESTA customer service that the travel document was now available online and at a lower cost in comparison to her type B tourist visa. She would not have to give an interview at the embassy or prepare and arrange for all the documents that need to be presented there. She received her ESTA within two hours of submitting the application and printed it and her airline ticket out with ease for the travelling.

USA Example 2: Sheldon
Sheldon wishes to apply for a 60-day filmmaking course for sixteen hours a week in Columbia to grasp better knowledge of how films are made in the US.
Initially, he wanted to apply for a student visa from the embassy but learned of an easier and swift procedure to apply for travel documentation online. The ESTA customer service clarified the conditions with him that he would be staying in the US for less than 90 days with his course being eighteen hours a week, which is in term with ESTA being valid for studying purposes. In case the number of hours a week extends eighteen, he would have to apply for a student visa. However, he meets the requirements of ESTA and can easily apply for it online.
Neither a valid visa nor the ESTA document can guarantee to enter the United States of America. There are several security and immigration checks done at the ports of entry which are conducted by the Bureau of American Customs and Border protection which determines a person’s entry into the country.
Even if the USA is just a transit point and not the final destination, you are still passing through the American territory and will be checked by the respective authorities with whom you must cooperate.
Therefore, a valid visa or the ESTA cannot guarantee your entry into the American territory.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Pierre
Pierre is a citizen of Switzerland who has visited the USA on several occasions and was trying to settle in Philadelphia in 2013.
A few years back, in 2012, on his vacation to Los Angeles with a travel authorization, he had extended his stay for more than 3 months and crossed the 90-day limitation, which the US immigration officers had noted down in the file that keeps a check on all the visitors. This is a revocation of the visa policy and immigration rules of America.
On his last visit to the USA, Pierre had to face a very problematic situation after he reached the airport. The immigration checked his travel documents and passport and saw his previous records. His ESTA was revoked, and he was deported back to Zurich by the next flight accessible

ESTA USA visa Example 2: Mr. and Mrs. Geller
It is mandatory that the United States customs have to clear your baggage at the airport before you can enter into American territory. One such problem was faced by the Geller family.
Mr and Mrs. Geller were travelling to the USA from Dublin to meet their daughter in New York. They had decided carry along some food products with them as a surprise for their daughter. They cleared the immigration checks and proceeded to collect their luggage. At the baggage x-ray, their luggage was withheld and checked by the customs agents for routine checks. The food products were not declared, and it is mandatory to declare food products to customs.
The customs had to move the Gellers to another room for further inquiries. It depends on the decision of the agent, who might or might not revoke the ESTA Authorization. However, the Millers managed to convince the agent questioning and were allowed into America on the grounds of goodwill and good faith, but their food products were all seized.
All the personal information provided when filling out an ESTA application form is kept confidential with only authorized people in the travel document program. Since the information provided is very important, all is kept with the Department of Homeland Security as VWP issues the ESTA program. There is strict supervision over who gets access to the discrete data as ESTA is a very secure travel program.
Like many other control programs on travelers, the ESTA provides for strict controls regarding the privacy of those who require the module.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Matthew
Matthew was curious about who would get access to his information provided in ESTA and wanted to find out a little bit more about the privacy policy followed by them.
While applying for his ESTA, he found out certain facts:

  • The data is reviewed directly by the authority of American Immigration with the help of a software
  • They match the information provided with that of an existing database with the intelligence, police, immigration, and Interpol for previous references.
  • The ESTA is authorised without any delay if the information provided does not turn out to be suspicious.
  • The application is analysed manually when the immigration authority evaluates on whether the ESTA will be granted.
  • It takes seventy-two hours at the most to manually revise an application.
USA Example 2: Lilian
Lilian shared her US travel experience with some of her friends and mentioned a few interesting things that happened on her arrival at the New York airport.
After standing in a line, an airport agent directed her towards a totem where she had scanned her passport before and was automatically linked to the ESTA. She printed out her document which was then required at the very final immigration check.
A person is allowed to proceed without any formalities, however, on some occasions, these permits require for certain additional controls. The agent was merely at the totem to assist in any uncertainty but she completed the process in full privacy.

The duration of the period of the data restoration i.e. data which is provided during the ESTA application process is two years. There are situations when the data storage period is less than the two years duration in a case like passport cessation process. Post the two years period the data is archived.
The DHS (Department for homeland security) is enabled to store data for a bonus year after the two years’ timeline. It is to mention that the data is stored afterward to meet the requirement of the circumstances where retrieval of the data is requisite. The workforce responsible and associated with the data storage is not able to observe or to approach the data like this.
The ESTA information where the American legislation doesn’t state for the requirement of storage of data, such as cases where the individual holding the ESTA has been reported or charged and even cases where they were not granted the ESTA. The American Congress demands the American legislature to regulate all matters of security regarding the storage of ESTA data. The American legislature in accordance with module I-94W demands that all ESTA information be stored in the database for at least seventy-five years. The Customs and Border Protection is responsible for the regulation of this.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Nobel
Being an expert in web security, Nobel wanted to do a quick research of the American authorities’ responsibility in safekeeping the information in association with the ESTA travel authorization. Before his travel to Chicago, he did a quick research on this and found out that:

  • Providing the ESTA is related to the matter of national security to the nation of United States, and hence the confidential matters are kept secretive for obvious reasons, and only the authorized personnel have full detail on it.
  • It is obvious that the old data gets archived as soon as the ESTA Visa is renewed with new information updated in the database system.
  • The data provided in the ESTA gets archived after every 2 years of its expiry, and subsequent renewal leads updating of new data.
  • The only governing body capable of getting access is the database of the US government which can always get access to sensitive data through the archives along with the current information.
Sometimes, tourists tend to leave the US and stay in Mexico or Canada for some time in order to extend their stay in the USA by re-entering for a new period of 90 days.
However, this move is considered as a violation of the regulations regarding the ESTA Authorizations.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Daniel
Daniel visited Miami with a valid ESTA Authorization. After two months in Miami, he decided to travel to Mexico and then return so a new period of 90 days in the USA can start.
Hopefully, before leaving the USA, Daniel decided to consult a lawyer who advised him to go back to his home country and come back after few months.

USA Example 2: Sarah
Sarah was in a chaotic situation on his prolonged stay in the US.
She went to the US from London with her friend Rose, both holding an ESTA document. Realising that their stay 90 days stay is about to end, Sarah decided to go to the Caribbean islands for a short trip, hoping that if she returns after a week, she will be able to stay for another period of 90 days.
And so they did. However, when back to the U.S. from their Caribbean trip, the Customs and border agents allowed them only a week more into the country – the time left from the initial period of 90 days allowed.

ESTA Application

Yes, you can apply for your ESTA Authorization on a short notice. However, we strongly advise you to apply a month prior or at least 72 hours before departure.

To avoid hassles during your travel plans, it is advisable that you submit your online ESTA application weeks or months before the date of journey but if you have panned your travel last minute then you must submit your application at least 3 days or 72 hours in prior. These applications are accepted 24×7, 365 days, and once approved your ESTA will last for a period of 2 years but if your passport expires before the end of 2 years period then your ESTA will also expire with the same.

No, it is not required to fill the I-94W form since the ESTA is applicable. ESTA has reduced many things that were earlier required, made travel easy for both the traveller and the government. It is a paperless process that allows the carrier the ability to validate messages and applications directly related to the ESTA status of the applicant. Therefore, now the I-94 W forms are not applicable and are not given to the travellers under VWP.

As long as travelling to the USA requires some kind of an authorization, ESTA is one option. It is a legal process used to enhance the security of the US.  ESTA allows the DHS to make a decision about the traveller regarding his eligibility related to travelling to the US much in advance, and it can even stop the person to board the carrier whom it considers as a potential threat to the US or its citizens.  ESTA only makes the traveller eligible to board the flight but it does not make him eligible to enter the US unless approved by the CBP officer at the border.

All you need is a laptop and a good Internet connection.
Anyone with a tablet or a smart phone that has an Internet connection can apply for ESTA as well.
It is also recommended that you have a printer as well since it will be convenient for you to print out a duplicate of travel authorization which will just be another document besides your air tickets and passport.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Maxwell
Maxwell was at the Melbourne airport and was getting ready for a flight to New York.
Although he has not printed the ESTA Document, since Maxwell had a smartphone with him, he was able to connect to the airport Wi-Fi and obtained the ESTA online without much hassle.
He saved a PDF file of the authorization copy onto his smartphone which he exhibited right at the check-in point. This led him to have a smooth process all through out without any hindrance.

ESTA is an online procedure introduced by the US government to pre-screen travelers who intend to visit the United States. This program specifies the eligibility of visitors to the United States  as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for security reasons. You can obtain ESTA i.e. an essential travel document only through the online process. You need to provide personal information along with information about health issues and purpose of traveling. In addition to this, you are required to provide demographic information, residential address and occupation details.

For security reasons, USA requires travellers to provide and specify details on their temporary residence along with an emergency contact. The contact can be from your country or someone in the US.

Lastly, you will have to answer certain questions regarding possible crime records, past visits to the USA and your health status. Please note that any answer that does not correspond to the truth will lead to a not authorized travel. After you are done with form-filling, the online system will direct you to the payment process.

Once the payment for your ESTA is complete, you can proceed with ESTA for another person of the group. The documents will be mailed to you at the email address you have specified.

ESTA is an online process to pre-scrutinize tourists that is initiated by the government of USA. Being a part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), the ESTA document stipulates the eligibility of the tourist visiting the USA. The entire process is done due to ensure better security in the States.

In order to attain ESTA the applicant needs to submit personal information including diseases, health status, demographic profile covering, domiciliary address and particulars reading the profession. The ESTA Authorization is an online travel permit and is obtained entirely online.

You will need also to provide specific details regarding their place of staying. In addition, the travellers are required to provide an emergency contact of a person to get in contact in case of emergency.

The applicant is required to answer certain questions related to past travel to the USA, health status, possible criminal records which are set at the last section of the online ESTA form. It is essential to fill the answers truthfully and once the form fill up you will be directed to the confirmation page where you will be able to verify the information on the application form. You will have the opportunity to edit the information if needed. After confirming the information you will be directed to the payment page.

Once your ESTA approved, the document will be sent to your personal email, the one you have provided on the application form. If are not travelling alone, after completing the payment, you will be able to fill in new ESTA form. Please, note that all travellers to the USA, including minors will need their travel authorization.

  1. Fill the ESTA application form online
  2. Complete the payment process.
  3. The documents will be sent to you via the mail you have provided on the ESTA form.

Usually, the process of the ESTA validation requires between 30 minutes and 72 hours. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection is in charge with the ESTA permits validation.
In order to mitigate the chance of any redundant delay, ESTA should be applied at least 72 hours prior to board a flight.

USA Example 1:Hanna
Hanna, from the UK can also benefit from the Visa Waiver Program, which allows her to visit the US for up to 90 days without a VISA.
She and her friend want to visit New York.
Both ladies can apply for two ESTA authorizations online by simply using their laptops. All this – from the comfort of their home.
The ESTA documents, as usual, have been sent to them on their personal emails.

USA Example 2: Ana
Ana, a German citizen, is looking forward to celebrating her 60th birthday in Miami as she has always been very fond of this city. She has previously traveled to the U.S. several times with a B1 tourist Visa, which she acquired by submitting her application to a US embassy and after an interview with an Embassy’s agent.
However, her visa would expire before she turns 60 prompting her to apply for an ESTA document on a short notice.
Ana finds out that the ESTA document can be requested and approved online faster than having to send another formal application to US embassy and waiting for an interview. Since she has previous experiences in dealing with visa applications, she could submit his ESTA application without any hunch or hurdle.
The fields that can be modified after completing the ESTA application form are:

  • Email address
  • Point of contact in the USA

In order to modify these filed you will be required to update your Full Name, Phone or mobile number, the name of the country where your passport was issued and the unit number that the system had provided to you while requesting for the ESTA. Just in case, you were not provided with any unit number, you can also use your birth date and passport delivery and expiry dates.

ESTA USA visa Example 1: Joe
Joe wishes to travel to New York with a few of his friends in a week. He already has his ESTA which he obtained online about a year ago while planning for his business visit to Chicago.
However, he is unsure on whether he can still use his existing ESTA. The second concern relates to whether he would have to replace his latest New York residential address, where he would stay upon arrival, with that of his former Chicago address.
He may or may not change his ESTA resident address as the American immigration authority does not consider it a mandatory procedure.
There is no hard on fast rule by the American immigration authority in this regard. And he is able to use his existing ESTA during his travel as ESTA has validity for two years. In addition, within this time period, it enables the holder to enter in the states for multiple times.
The time period of each entrance is 90 days. If Joe’s passport is the same which he used during the time he applied for the ESTA he is enabled to avail all these benefits of the ESTA.
The ESTA form must be completed prior to your departure to the territory of US. It is recommended that the procedure to acquire the ESTA must be completed 3 days before travel at the very least. It is also the maximum number of days for you to receive your ESTA document.

USA Example 1: Branca
Branca is a highly organized. She is the kind of person who prefers to plan for everything in advance.
She obviously knew about the procedure and importance for obtaining the ESTA online. Subsequently, she planned a trip to San Francisco and applied for the ESTA one month prior to her travel date. On receiving the ESTA by email, in no less than three days of applying, she kept it ready in advance.

ESTA Requirements

Information required:

  • Valid electronic passport with biometric data
  • Passport issuing date
  • Passport expiry date
  • Identity details: name, gender, contact information, date of birth, city of birth
  • Citizenship details
  • PASS-ID if you are member of CBP global entry program.
  • Details of current or previous employer (not mandatory)

After you fill all the required information in the application form, your application will be processed right away. In no more than 36 hours we will inform you about the status of your ESTA document by email.

To apply for ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program, you should meet the following criteria:

  • They want to stay in the US for no more than 90 days.
  • They have a valid electronic passport.
  • They are citizen of one of the 38 countries that are approved under the VWP.
  • They must procure the return ticket to their home country or any other country.

Travellers who wish to enter the US including infants from the visa-exempt countries under a Visa Waiver Program are required to hold a valid ESTA. Due to the constant terror threat the Department of Homeland Security has launched this program to pre-screen all the visa waiver travellers before they leave their home countries to travel to U.S.

It is recommended by CBP to apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before the departure or as soon as possible to avoid any last minute hassle. It is applicable on both the sea and air travellers.

  • Validity of ESTA is for 2 years or till the passport expires (whichever comes first).
  • The period of ESTA that is valid is maximum 90 days.
  • The period of 90 days start from the day you enter the US regardless of the time.
  • If you hold an ESTA document then you are allowed to visit the US for tourism, business consultation with associates or negotiations with the clients. You can also attend events and seminars or take a vocational course. You cannot engage yourself in the activity that will provide you with payment or training that will provide you with degree when you visit the US on ESTA.

ESTA is valid for the period of 2 years from the date of approval or till your passport expires which means if your passport expires before the end of the two years period, your ESTA will also expire with that. If your passport is still valid during the time of your stay at the USA but your ESTA expires while you are still there, you are still allowed to stay but no more than 90 days.

Remember that 2 years validity does not mean that you can stay in the US for 2 years continuously. It means that you can travel to the US in several intervals during the ESTA validity.

  • You must have a passport that is readable by machine.
  • Your passport should contain your biometric data

Other important requirements are mentioned below

United Kingdom: you should be a permanent resident of the countries which are mentioned below to qualify for the VWP:

– England
– Scotland
– The Channel Islands
– Northern Ireland
– Wales
– the Isle of Man
– Slovenia –The citizens of Slovenia qualify for admission under the VWP only by using the red Slovenian passport.

Electronic passports: The E-passport is a passport that has an e-chip within it. This chip contains the same information that is printed on the data page of the passport i.e. the name of the holder, the date of birth of the holder, and other biographic data. Along with this information it also contains a biometric identifier and a digital photograph of the holder therefore it is must that all the passports issued by the countries that are participating in the Visa Waiver Program since 1st July 2009 should issue Electronic passport. This is required to prevent the unauthorized reading or “skimming” of the data stored on the E-passport chip.

Machine-readable passports: These passports contain the data on the identity page encoded in optical character recognition format many countries are issuing such passports since the 1980s.

Here are the Requirements for the ESTA Authorization:

  • You must be a citizen of one of the countries included in the Visa Exemption Programme. – check here
  • A digital or electronic readable passport.
  • Attaining a round trip ticket is a necessity.
  • The staying duration should not beat the 90 days’ time limit.
  • Holding a MasterCard, VISA, American Express or Discover Credit Card, Visa or Master Card Debit card is must for the payment of ESTA. Payment can also be done via PayPal.
  • Providing a valid Email address is necessary.
USA Example 1: Teresa
Teresa is a citizen of Spain who is tripping to USA along with a few of her friends. Although she has herd about the ESTA document, she is unsure on whether her passport is eligible for optical or digital reading. After discussing this with her friends, she understood that if the numbers, letters and her personal data that are present at the bottom of the information page with “>>>”, it signifies that that passport is eligible to go through the process of optical reading.
Jennifer proceeds with the application form and applies for the ESTA online successfully.

ESTA USA visa Example 2: Jacek
Jacek’s country of origin is the Poland. He is currently on a business trip in Mexico. After it, he will travel to Arizona, Phoenix. The journey will be via a privately chartered flight. In this case, it will be better for Jacek ot to apply for ESTA and but for regular visa instead.
The flight will not face objection or denial from the administration of USA authorities. Still this is regarded as an unrecognised trajectory by the American establishment as the method and mode of the travelling does not match with the allowed framework or the requirements of the travel agenda.

ESTA Recommendations

Don’t get confused about ESTA, it is not a document that makes you admissible to the US, it only allows you to travel to the US.  You will be inspected by an officer at the border and he/she will decide if you are eligible to enter the U.S. or not.

Yes, if you are travelling in transit to a third country you will still be needed an authorization for this stop over – a visa or an ESTA document. If this is your case and you are applying for a ESTA please, choose the In Transit to Another Country option from the application form.

  • If you want to stay in the USA for more than 90 days then you will need a visa.
  • If you want to work in the USA, you will need a visa.
  • If you want a permanent citizenship of the USA, you will require an immigrant visa.
  • If you want to enter the USA by the carrier that is not approved by VWP, you will need a visa.
  • If you don’t qualify for any of the clauses of the Immigration and Nationality Act 212 (a), you will need a visa.
  • If, after February 2011, you have visited one of the following countries – Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Soudan, Syria, or Yemen.

Following are the drawbacks of VWP program:

  • You can’t appeal in case your entry is denied.
  • You can’t appeal if you are removed from the USA.
  • Extension of the 90 days period is not possible.
  • Other than the mentioned purposes, you will need a visa.
  • You can’t change your status if you enter via VWP.
  • You cannot enter via VWP if you have travelled or transited to these countries since 1st March 2011. The countries are Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen

Don’t worry about it! Contact us and we will send you your ESTA Authorization within minutes.

When your ESTA expires, you will simply need to apply for a new one. There is no option to renew it. You will have to pass through the application process again. If you meet any difficulties, do not hesitate to contact us via the contact form of email!

No, you can’t travel with a different passport that was not mentioned in the application form. As the ESTA Authorization is linked to a certain passport number, you will need to present both at the CBP officers. If, for any reason, you obtain new passport during the validity of an approved ESTA, we invite you to contact us. We will issue new document for you. We would like to remind you to always check the validity of your passport when travelling to the US. It is totally acceptable the ESTA to expire during your trip. It is not so, however, for your passport!

No. As your ESTA Authorization is valid for two years, it is normal that some of the details previously filled-in your ESTA document have changed during this time. Details like employer, home address, and contact point at the USA do not require the issuance of a new ESTA Authorization.

After applying for your ESTA Authorization, you will receive one of the following emails:

  • ESTA Document Approved: A email with your approved ESTA Authorization. However, it should be remembered that as soon as you arrive at any of the airports at the USA, there is a protocol followed by the Customs and Border protection bureau where a thorough verification is made of your documents.
  • ESTA Document Pending: This is the part where the United States Department of Homeland Security is still processing all of the data related to your ESTA. Cases similar to this can occur anytime, but it does not mean that you will not be allowed to travel under the online authorization. If there are a lot of requests in the line, then the automated system takes time to register them all. It takes up to 72 hours a document to be approved. However, most of the applications get approved between the next 30 minutes and 2 hours).
  • ESTA Not Authorizaed: This means that the automated system has been unable to authorize your participation for the Visa program and you would not be allowed to use the ESTA document, but it does not necessarily stop you from travelling to the US. You can always request a regular visa by contacting the Consulate of America or the Embassy itself.
USA Example: Eliza
Eliza is a resident of Bologna, and she has been living there for quite some time. One of her personal favourite destinations for travel includes the United States. It was only a month ago that she had planned a trip to Florida.

She applied for an ESTA form online 5 days prior to leaving for the United States both for her and her partner.
Even though she received her partner’s approved ESTA on time via email, she did not receive the same documents for herself.
It turned out that her request was still pending approval and she will get a proper response within 72 hours. The automated system does not have any particular reason to delay the travel authorization as such.
It is quite a possibility that a similar name to that of Eliza might not be allowed to visit the United States. It could also be a possibility that certain violation committed by Eliza which related to the immigration rules has led them deny her request to visit the United States.
Another possibility could be the fact that the place that Eliza wants to visit is situated somewhere near the embassy of national security of America due to which reason the authorities of the Immigration department make a note of the information on different travellers.
It was only after waiting for 4 hours that Eliza got an approval on the travel authorization.
Therefore, it is always important to make a note of the details when you are filling out the form online. It is also crucial that you keep an eye out on the confirmation page lest you miss out on any important opportunity.

Arriving to the USA

In this case you will need to go back to your home country or the destination that doesn’t fall under the US territory.  You will be sent back using the same carrier you chose to reach the US.

The United States of America has a specific baggage policy mandatory for every passenger. It is advisable that passengers have a prior knowledge regarding these rules to avoid any CBP interrogation after a long hectic flight journey. There is a policy regarding the transportation of objects, goods, medicines, valuable materials, cash, and titles.
In case the customs officials are suspicious regarding the goods in present in the baggage, they might either seize the product or conduct a long investigation on it. It is their duty, and they are very strict about it.
The following items are strictly prohibited:

  • Flammable Paints
  • Fireworks
  • Liquid Chloride
  • Work tools such as; Drills, hammers, etc.
  • Ammunitions and weapons which are legally unauthorised
  • Gaming materials such as; baseball bat, golf club, etc.

Carry-on baggage cannot contain any kind of containers that contain liquid products such as hair gel. Perfume and deodorants are allowed if below 100ml. Similarly, there are certain products which are allowed under certain exceptions;

  • A passenger must make a customs declaration,
  • People who travel with infants can carry breast milk, fruit juice or any other liquid require for feeding them.
  • Medicinal solutions such as cough syrup, etc. below 100 ml can be carried along if it is custom declared.

The products listed below can be brought along if passengers follow the rules stated by the CBP:

  • Ammunitions and Weapons- A legally authorised permit from the ATF or Bureau of Alcohol, tobacco, firearms, and explosives, are mandatory if a person wants to carry any kind of ammunitions or weapons. Failure to obtain a permit or declaring such firearms can result in hefty fines and even jail. This law even applies to foreign diplomats. Every kind of documents relating to the firearm must be carried along for extra precautions. The registration of the firearm with the CBP is also mandatory. The authorization is required only when entering the country. However, if you use it for any illegal activity, there will be severe consequences.
  • Military or Defence Purpose Products- Anything related to the military, be it an article or software, must be custom declared. A license to import such a product must also be obtained.
  • Medicinal products and drugs- Importing any medical product that cannot be purchased is illegal in America. An authentic prescription signed by a doctor defining the purpose of such a product is mandatory. Needles, medicines, syringes, etc., must only be carried for pharmaceutical purposes prescribed by a doctor. The original packaging of the medicine must remain intact for any information. Contact lenses also need additional permission for entry into the US.
  • Research products- The United States department of Agriculture or any authentic disease control center must give permission for importing certain products such as animal tissues, bacteria, mushrooms, and mollusks.
  • Alcohols and other beverages- Every country has a different set of rules which the passengers must research about before travelling with such products.
  • Articles with copyright and trademark- Copyrights and trademarks are protected by the CBP, and any articles registered with the Federal Government is protected and can be confiscated and seized.
  • Importing Automobiles into the USA- The US environmental protection agency can give detailed information regarding the import of automobiles into the US. Every automobile imported from foreign countries must possess the ability to modify into US standards.
  • Food products- All processed food is allowed, and other products such as spices, honey, tea, coffee, olive oil are also permitted. Any kind of instant food products and cured meat is not allowed. Bakery products also have certain conditional requirement. Certain vegetables and fruits have some exceptions provided the provenance must be recognized and permitted by the US authority. Not doing a custom declaration results in penalties up to USD 5,000.
  • Antiques and historical artifacts: There must be a license present for every historical artifacts or antique imported. The presence of a license allows objects that are art works. Any such license must be authentic. The US had paid special attention to the import of artifacts from Iraq, Cambodia, Mali and Cyprus over the past couple of years due to sever looting and smuggling cases.
  • Pets: You can bring your pet along if you have proper documents. Vaccination is an essential requirement for Dogs. Countries with no traces of rabies cases are exempted. Cats, on the other hand, do not require any such vaccination certificates. However, airline companies and federal authorities will demand a health certificate for every pet to avoid spreading of diseases infectious to humans. The U.S. Dog and Cat protection act forfeit any item made out of a dog or cat fur, and it is illegal to manufacture, sell, import and export any item made out of cat or dog fur in America. CBP also provides a brochure regarding any queries related to bringing pets into the US. All pets must meet the CDC requirements. Birds that are not of US origin are quarantined for about 30 days with the USDA. They must be custom declared before traveling to the USA. There is a fee chargeable for quarantine which must also be paid. There are also rules stating Hamsters, Guinea pigs and rabbits. It is advisable to conduct well-rounded research before carrying any pet/animals to the USA.
USA Example: Mrs. Grey
It is mandatory that the United States customs have to clear your baggage at the airport before you can enter into American territory. One such problem was faced by Mrs. Grey.
Mrs. Grey was traveling to the USA from France to meet her son, a mathematics professor in Detroit. She carried along with her, some food products as a surprise for her son. She failed to mention in the 6059B form, provided by the flight attendants before arrival, that she was carrying with her food products.
On arrival, the customs officer opened up her luggage for further inquiries. As the food products were not mentioned in the customs declaration, all of them were seized.
There are more than hundreds of people who pass the United States customs clearance, and among them, both the American citizens and foreigners have to fill out the mandatory customs form. Except for those travellers who come from countries that take part in the VWP, every other foreigner is required to fill out an additional form called the I-94.
The travellers have to complete the immigration process from the immigration control area. Here the travellers are divided into different lanes. U.S. citizens form up in one line and foreign travellers in another along with the green card holders. The immigration authority of the CBP goes through all your identification, travel documents and temporary residence in the US. Student and K-1 visas require additional documents to be authorized and checked. They collect the fingerprints and a photo with them in their database for security reasons. The officials do not take more than a minute to authorize your entrance to the US after thorough checks. There are automated totems in some airports where the ESTA holders can carry out the entire authorization process without having to stand in a longer line.
In case there are certain areas in which the immigration needs to have an additional check, the traveller might have to wait for a longer period of time. This is when the immigration authority will determine your entrance into the US. Travellers with visas will have to fill out the I-94 form where they will have to elucidate additional enquiries.
This process is similar for people traveling by air, water, and land.
When travelling by air, you will need to cross certain security control areas. Here is some recommendation to make your travel easier:

  • Always keep your passport and travel documents safe and secure,
  • Remember to have easy access to these documents at all times.
  • Do not carry with yourself any metallic object that will trigger the metal detector
  • Wear shoes that you can easily take off during a security check,
  • On some occasions, you will be asked you to put your shoes for X-ray examination
  • Remove your laptop from your bag and place it on a tray for X-ray
  • Give all your belongings, such as phones and jewelleries, for security screening.

Every person must pass the security check even infants. They will be checked along with their parents or guardians. If the child is not a newborn and can walk, let them walk through the metal detector. New-borns can pass the metal detector with their parents. Children must be kept under an observant eye at all times. Every carry-on luggage with you will be checked even if it is a baby/infant product. Do not forget to declare all baby solutions in the custom declaration.

ESTA USA visa Example: Sergio Alejandro
The Alejandro family, Sergio, Sophia and their five-year-old son Jose visited the United States for a vacation in Disney Land. They were travelling with ESTA documents.
On their arrival at the Los Angeles airport, they decided to proceed to the totem as the line at the immigration control was very long. They decided to take advantage of the simple procedure because they had the ESTA Authorizations with them. Sophia and Jose’s travel documents were authorized without any delay, but Sergio had to go through further inspections.
One of the two steps can be followed if such a situation comes up. Either the traveller would be taken to another line and an immigration officer would check the problem in detail inspection of the travel documents, or the person will be taken to another room for further interrogation. Fortunately for Sergio, his travel documents were all right. The problem was clarified, and he continued with his wife and son to their destination.
It is mentioned in a disclaimer while filling out an ESTA that it is completely the decision of the immigration authority to grant you entry to the United States of America. If a traveller is denied entry even though they are in possession of a valid visa, they can fill in a claim before an immigration judge. The fine decision relies on the BIA or Board of Immigration Appeals.
Sometimes, the person is allowed to enter the USA because he would have to appear before the immigration office whenever summoned.

ESTA USA visa Example: Sergio
Sergio travels from Rome to San Francisco on several occasions. He was trying to look for a stable and long-term job that would allow him permanent immigration status in America.
After 90 days he decided to stay a little bit longer hoping that all will look like a simple ovesighing. The next time Sergio returned to the U.S., he was led for interrogation at the airport and of course, was not allowed to enter the USA. The only option before him was to apply to the US embassy in Rome for a regular visa.

There are several ways to avoid problems at the customs.

  • Showing link with your country – Keep every kind of document ready; ranging from birth certificates, family ties outside America, marital status, family status, etc.
  • Show other economic ties – Provide details of your work contract for example
  • One thing that facilitates your stay in the USA is to prove a steady economic position.

Phone numbers and addresses of the U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Australia
U.S. Embassy in Canberra
Moonah Place
Yarralumla, ACT 2600
Telephone: (02) 6214-5600
1300-139-399 toll-free
Support-australia@ustraveldocs.com
AskEmbassyCanberra@state.gov

U.S. Consulate in Melbourne
553 St. Kilda Road
Melbourne, VIC 3004
Telephone: (03) 9526 5900
Fax: (03) 9510-4646

U.S. Consulate in Perth
4th Floor
16 St. George’s Terrace
Perth, WA 6000
Telephone: (08) 6144-5100
U.S. Consulate in Sydney
Level 10, MLC Centre
19-29 Martin Place
Sydney, NSW 2000