ESTA Visa America: FAQs
The ability to travel to the USA without having to secure a visa is a huge advantage for those who are eligible.
Whether you’re planning a vacation or a short business trip, we look at some of the questions we’re often asked about visa-free travel to the US and ESTA visa America.
Do I need an ESTA for USA?
If you intend to travel to the US via air or sea carrier under the Visa Waiver Program, and you qualify, you will first need to undergo security pre-screening through the ESTA application process.
How do I apply for ESTA America?
The ESTA application is an online form. You will be asked a series of questions, the responses you provide will be used to pre-screen you for travel to the US.
What are the ESTA questions?
The application will cover a range of areas relating to the applicant and their travel plans:
- Personal information
- Passport details
- Travel history
- Immigration history
- Current employment information
- Emergency contact information
- Purpose of travel
- Destination information
- Contact person in the USA
When do I need to apply for the ESTA visa America?
You should have your ESTA approval in place before you leave and travel to the US. If you expect no issues with your application, you can apply up to 3 days before. In the vast majority of applications, the result will come through immediately.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
Under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), nationals of participating countries (currently 38) are permitted to travel to the USA for tourism or business-related purposes without requiring a visa for up to 90 days.
How much is an ESTA for America?
ESTA costs $14 per person, this is made up of $10 authorization charge and $4 processing fee. If your payment card is not in US Dollars, the fee will usually be converted into Dollars at the prevailing currency exchange rate at the time of payment.
The fee is payable when making your application and applies per ESTA application – not per trip.
How long does ESTA America last?
ESTA approval lasts two years or up to the date of your passport’s expiry, whichever is earlier.
Importantly, this does not grant the holder permission to remain in the US for two years.
How many trips is ESTA valid for?
ESTA is valid for unlimited trips during the period of validity, provided the holder’s details and circumstances remain the same and the trip qualifies under the VWP.
Do I need to take proof of ESTA when I travel?
In theory, you shouldn’t need to take a printed copy of your ESTA approval as it is an online system accessible by border authorities. However there are many advantages to taking a copy with you, just in case there are issues at the border.
Can I use ESTA to travel to the US for business?
You can rely on ESTA to travel to the US visa-free, provided your intended business activity qualifies under the VWP, for example:
- Attending exhibitions, conferences, meetings, consultations, job fairs
- Negotiating contracts
You cannot stay in the USA for more than 90 days without a visa.
You cannot carry out gainful employment during your stay.
Who can apply for ESTA?
You can apply if you are a national of a country that participates in the
US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with a valid e-passport from that country and you are intending to travel to the US for a stay of less than 90 days for vacation or business trips.
Eligible countries include:
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Who can’t apply for ESTA?
Not everybody is eligible for ESTA. Those who are excluded include:
- Individuals travelling to study or take up paid employment in the US
- Nationals of non-VWP countries
- Nationals of VWP countries who hold dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria
- Nationals of VWP countries who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan and/or Yemen, since March 2011 (diplomats and military personnel exempt)
- Individuals who have previously been denied entry at the US border or deported from the US
- Individuals who have previously broken US immigration laws eg ‘overstayers’
- Individuals who have committed a crime involving moral turpitude
- Individuals suffering from a communicable disease
In such instances, an application will need to be made to the US consular for a relevant visa and where applicable, a waiver may also be required to address the grounds for inadmissibility.
My ESTA application has been denied – can I still travel to the US?
Non-eligibility for ESTA does not in itself mean you are inadmissible into the country.
If you have been refused an ESTA, take advice to understand the ground(s) for denial and to identify appropriate alternative route.
Is ESTA a visa?
No, ESTA is not a visa and does not confer any rights to enter the US.
US visa holders do not require ESTA authorization to travel under their visa to the US for the purpose permitted under that particular visa.
However, in the same way a US visa does not guarantee entry into the US, ESTA holders will also be subject to immigration control at the border.
I have been refused ESTA authorization, do I need a visa?
If you have been refused ESTA authorization, you will need to apply for a visa for permission to travel to the US.
I already have a US visa – do I still need ESTA authorization?
ESTA is required specifically for visa-free entry to the USA. If you have applied for, and hold, a valid US visa suitable for your purpose of travel, you will not need to hold separate ESTA approval.
Can I apply for ESTA without confirmed travel plans?
It is possible to apply for ESTA authorization without specific travel plans. It is advised well in advance, even before you have made travel plans, to ensure you have the required permissions in lace before travel
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.