Planning to visit the United States of America? If you are then there are a few things that you must keep in mind. Among the top priorities should be sorting out your visa or as in allowed in many countries – ESTA. Electronic System for Travel Authorization, simply known as ESTA is not a visa but an online program that authorizes a person to visit the USA without an actual visa. ESTA is not applicable to all countries and the US government has a list of approved countries, citizens/ residents of which can apply for an ESTA authorization.
This means that if you live in one of the ESTA approved countries, your visit to the United States can be simple without having to go through the rigors of visa approval. However, you can only stay in the States for 90 days using ESTA and that too only for a vacation or business trip. If you have any other purpose of visiting the US, you will need to apply for an appropriate visa. The countries which allow you to travel to the US using ESTA include many European Union nations, Australia, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and a few Asia countries. The notable countries that are excluded from what is known as the Visa Waiver Program are India, China, Brazil, and Russia.
If you are a citizen of one of the 38 countries that fall under the Visa Waiver Program, then you can fill the necessary form online and get the ESTA within a few days. However, you must be careful while filling up the form because any error can prove to be costly, limiting your chances of traveling to the US using an ESTA. There are primarily two kinds of errors that you could be making – critical ones and minor errors. In the case of the former, you will have to apply afresh or have to contact the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) requesting them to consider your application in spite of the mistakes. In case of minor mistakes, you may be able to edit the application even after submission (if the authorities allow) or the errors may be overlooked and your admission to the United States may not be affected or delayed.
You have been travelling to one of the following countries after January 2011:
If you have been travelling to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen after January 2011, you will not be permitted to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. No matter if you were e tourist, a journalist, a representative of a NGO or any government body, you will have to apply via the consular services of the USA.
Let’s take a look now at some mistakes that you could possibly make so that you know the danger zones and be careful while filling up the ESTA form.
Critical Errors You Should Avoid Making While Filling up the ESTA Form
- Wrong Passport Details – Your most important document in a foreign country is a passport as it serves more than just your identity card. While filling up the ESTA form you must carefully fill up the passport details when asked. Your country’s passport number will have its unique codes – different from how other countries have it. Typing an incorrect or incomplete number can land you in trouble. If you enter your passport details wrongly, you will not be able to edit them after submission. This error will not only cause a rejection of your form but will require you to submit a new one.
- Incorrect Passport Issuing Country and Citizenship Country – They may seem to mean the same thing but they can have two different meanings. For example, you can hold the citizenship of the United Kingdom but have a passport issued from Italy, if the laws of the said country allow On the other hand, you could be a citizen of United Kingdom and also have a passport issued by the UK authorities. While submitting the form, you need to be careful of these two things and fill the necessary information in the right place.
- Wrong Date of Birth – You can very easily make a mistake here. Entering the wrong date, month or year is not uncommon. Built since we are talking about ESTA forms, this is an unpardonable mistake. An error in entering your date of birth will result in your form being rejected.
- Omitting Middle Name – If you have a middle name which is mentioned in your passport, make sure to enter it on the ESTA form as well. Though there are no fields specifically for middle names, you should be entering your middle name in the field called ‘First (Given) Name’. The ‘Family Name’ is your surname. If there is an error in your name, or the details do not match with what’s in your passport, your ESTA application can be rejected.
- Misspelling Names – It is only human to make an error while spelling your first name, middle name or surname. But these errors can cost you your ESTA approval, especially when your name’s spelling does not match with what’s provided on your passport. Moreover, if you have a pseudonym or alias, you must mention it in the given field.
- Incorrectly Answering Eligibility Questions – There are quite a few eligibility questions mentioned in the ESTA form that includes questions concerning diseases, criminal cases, drug abuse, terrorism, immigration fraud, employment inside the USA, refused a visa, unauthorized stay and travel history. You must be careful while answering these questions as a ‘yes’ where a ‘no’ is applicable will not only reject your form but can also bar you from entering the country for up to 5 years.
- Not Following any ESTA Update – You need to be sure that your ESTA application is approved before you board your flight to the US. It is especially necessary to check at least 24 hours before departure lest there be any update that may require you to change your travel plan.
- Other Non-Essential Fields – There are several details that have to be filled on an ESTA form such as social media handles, contact information, employment information, travel information, US point of contact information, address while in the US and emergency contact information in or out of the US. These are not mandatory information that will determine the fate of your ESTA approval but giving all this information is beneficial. However if during the time you are submitting your ESTA, your address while in the US isn’t fixed, you can leave the field blank or type unknown. Later when you have the details, you can update your ESTA form – even after approval.
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There is no doubt that getting an ESTA is easier than applying for a visa. All you need is 15 minutes during which you fill out the form meticulously, without any errors. As already mentioned, some errors are pardonable while for many others your application can be rejected. Make sure that you fill up the form properly so that your application doesn’t get rejected and your travel plans are not hampered.