According to the Visa Waiver Program, whoever wishes to travel to the USA needs a licensing approval to board an air carrier of their choice. For this reason, on January 12th 2009 the Electronic System for Travel Authorization became mandatory, allowing you to apply electronically for ESTA, and getting approval online. It is a US governmental program, which is managed by the Ministry of Internal Security, and its purpose is to control, by thorough procedures, passenger data before approving their right to enter the US.
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What you should know
Brief and important information on ESTA.
- ESTA isn’t a Visa but an exemption from the obligation to issue a Visa.
- It is required for those wishing to enter the USA either by plane or by ship.
- An approved ESTA does not guarantee entry as there are continuous checks for traveller entry.
- Only passport holders of countries participating in the VWP program can apply.
- ESTA is valid for entry to all 50 states, as well as US territories such as Puerto Rico and US Virgin Islands in the Carribean.
- Those who are denied an ESTA, are still eligible for a Tourist Visa Β2 or a Professional Visa Β1 in order to visit the USA.
- An ESTA application must be submitted for each child and infant, and be approved.
- You must have a valid passport.
- You must be a passport holder of a country participating in the VWP program.
- Your stay in the USA may not exceed 90 days (3 months).
- The airline or yacht company you use must be known to the US government.
- You must have a return ticket, or continue your journey, that doesn’t end at a neighbouring US border or island.
When should I apply and how long is it valid for?
Travellers who wish to apply for ESTA will have to submit their application electronically 72 hours prior to their departure to the USA. It usually takes a few minutes to receive a response to your request, whether it’s accepted or rejected. Each traveller must carry their ESTA before boarding the plane or ship of their choice. Following approval, ESTA is valid for 2 years or until the expiration date of the passport, whichever comes first.
People who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Northern Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen during or after March 1st 2011, or people with double nationalities from Northern Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria are no longer eligible for an ESTA, and must apply for a Visa to visit the USA for business or tourism purposes.
The cost of ESTA comes to 14$ per person. Beware of various sites that ask for large sums of money and deceive people.
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Can I apply alone?
Obviously the process can be done by yourself. It is pretty simple and you needn’t pay a travelling agency to do it for you. In order to start click here.
Indicatively, some of the information that the interested party must fill in in the application are the following:
- Name and gender
- Date and place of birth
- Other nationalities
- Passport number and expiry date
- Names of parents
- Contacts in case of an emergency, name, telephone and address
- Place of stay in the USA.
- If you have ever been accused of a crime which had serious repercussions on property, or if you have ever harmed another person.
- If you have ever been denied access to the USA or denied a Visa
- If you have ever remained in the USA for longer than permitted.
- If you have ever travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Northern Korea, Somalia, Sudan Syria or Yemen from 2011 onwards.
For information on the USA read our article here.