ESTA is a primary requirement for all individuals entering the United States by air or sea under the Visa Waiver Program. This was stipulated and made compulsory since January 12, 2009.
ESTA is an abbreviation for Electronic System Travel Authorisation. It is an automated system used by the United States of America to determine whether a person is eligible to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program.
The ESTA is able to determine a traveller’s eligibility by processing biographic information and answers submitted for the Visa Waiver Program bordering on communicable diseases, law enforcement and national security.
After supplying this information, the ESTA lets you know if you are eligible to travel or not almost immediately. You may have to wait for three days sometimes to know your approval status.
It is generally recommended by the Customs and Border Protection department that application be made at least three days before flying but you can still apply just before boarding your flight.
These days airlines will not allow you board if you do not present your approved ESTA. There are chances that you may be denied so you shouldn’t take it for granted by not applying on time. If your application is turned down and you still have plans to visit the US, you can still apply for a visa.
How to Apply
Before you start the process, use this checklist:
To qualify you must be a citizen of one of the participating 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program. Take note however that
-Nationals of VWP countries who have travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).“Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travellers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
-Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.” (source)
- You have not violated any non-immigrant rules such as working during your visit, being infected with a communicable disease or committing a crime
- You are visiting for a period of 90 days or less
- You do not have a valid visa
- You do not intend to stay permanently in the United States
The process of the application can start here with an automated form for you to complete in order to apply for a travel authorization. Your application is processed by the system once you input all the necessary information and made payment. Your application is processed by the system to determine if you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa. The system will provide you with an automated response that shows whether you have been approved or not.
The Application Process
Once you log on to the website, you will see that there are options for individual or group application. You will click on the one that applies to you. The “individual application” can be accessed by selecting “New Application” and then “Individual Application,” or by selecting “Individual Application” under “Apply” in the general menu. If you are submitting more than one application, refer to Submitting a Group of Applications.
Be sure to enter all the information labelled with red asterisk as required.
You will have to provide “basic biographic information; information from your VWP eligible passport and other passports; your current or previous employer; your address and point of contact in the United States; an emergency point of contact; and payment information. You will also be asked to answer nine security questions. Each member of your party must have an approved travel authorization or a visa, regardless of age, prior to traveling to the United States.”(source)
Read Through Your Answers And Make Sure They are Correct– When you get to Step 5 of the Individual Application process, you can evaluate your answers for accuracy before selecting “Next” and submitting your application. If you have any corrections to make, simply select “Edit” in the corresponding application section and make adjustments. Once your updates are made, you can click “Update,” once the adjustments are done then “Confirm and Continue” to proceed to Step 6 to “Pay Now and Complete Application.”
Take Note of Your Application Number – An application number is assigned to you once you have submitted your application. Write this number down for easy remembrance. Do not forget however that your application isn’t paid for yet.
This will enable you to be able to have access to your application later.
Make Payment – After reviewing your payment summary on Step 6, check “Disclaimer” box and click “Pay Now” you will be taken to the final step where you enter in payment information for payment of fees associated with the Travel Promotion Act of 2009.
Check Your Application Status – Most times, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will return an Application Status immediately. In cases where more time is needed to process an electronic travel authorization application, an answer will usually be returned within 72 hours. Information will be provided to check the application status if you receive a pending response.
The three possible responses to an electronic travel authorization application are:
- Authorization Approved. This means that your travel authorization has been approved and you have been given authority to proceed with your travelling into the United States. The system then displays confirmation of the application approval and a payment receipt notice showing the amount or your payment. Please take note that a travel authorization doesn’t automatically guarantee entry into the 11united state. Admission into the country is at the prerogative of a U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer at a port of entry.
- Travel Not Authorized.This means that you are not authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. You however have the option of applying for a visa from the department of state for your travel. Check http://www.travel.state.gov for additional information about applying for a visa. Take note that this response is not a denial of entry; it only means that you are allowed to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The system also displays a payment receipt notice showing the amount of your payment for the processing of the ESTA application.
- Authorization Pending. This means that your travel authorization is under review because an immediate determination could not be made for your application. This response doesn’t automatically mean negative findings. A conclusion on your status will usually be made available within 72 hours.
To access your page, log on to the Web site and choose “Check ESTA Status,” and then “Individual Application.” Your application number, passport number, and birth date will be required to check the status of your application.
As earlier stated, you can still apply for visa if you are denied an ESTA approval.