What is ESTA?
ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization that has been put in place to replace the Visa system in the United States for certain countries. This is part of the Visa Waiver System (commonly shortened to VWP), and is a way of sorting your entry easily via the online application, before you make your trip to the United States. Just remember that this is a travel authorization, and is not the same thing as a visa.
By using this online visa waiver service, you can enter the United States for business or for pleasure over the duration of 2 years, so long as your trip lasts no longer than 90 days. The ESTA is valid for the entire duration, and you can make multiple trips to the United States during this time so long as your holidays or business trips to the U.S follow the requirements for ESTA.
The ESTA application cost is only $14. In the event your application is accepted, the whole amount is charged, however if your application is denied then you will only be charged $4 for processing.
Why should I complete the ESTA form?
Before going to the U.S., you’ll need to obtain permission. The ESTA form is a travel authorization which will let you travel to the U.S. over a period of 2 years, and which is quicker and easier to obtain than the traditional visa.
The ESTA form is ideal for all travel arrangements to the U.S from participating VWP countries, as it is processed very quickly. For some travellers, they will find that their form has been processed and approved within minutes, and usually a long processing time still only takes 72 hours. The ESTA cost is also only $14, which will be refunded in part if your application is not accepted. It is worth noting however that the ESTA form does not completely guarantee your entry to the United States - the U.S Border Authority still have the final say on who can or cannot enter the country, so make sure to keep all of your documentation in order when you arrive.
Can I make multiple trips to the U.S. after my ESTA application is approved?
Yes. Your application is valid for two years, or until your passport expires - whichever happens first. During this period, you can travel to the U.S. as often as you like. However it is recommended that you don’t travel to the US without leaving a gap between trips that any other traveller would, as the border guards may think you are travelling for purposes other than tourism or business, such as to live in the United States.
How long does the ESTA application process take, and how long is ESTA valid for?
Although the form can be processed within even a few minutes, you can receive an answer to your application within 72 hours. You should try and complete it before your flight with sufficient time to apply for a visa in the event your application isn’t accepted. You can read more on how to apply for ESTA here.
How long is ESTA valid for?
The default amount of time ESTA is valid for is 2 years. If your passport expires before two years from the time of your application, however, then your ESTA will expire at the same time as your passport. You need to have a valid passport to travel, and ESTA will not allow you to travel without that, even though it is only necessary for entry into the United States.
What information do I need to know?
You should be aware of the basic requirements for ESTA, such as eligibility, how long the ESTA permission lasts, and what this does, or does not, allow you to do during your trip. We have prepared a video giving you the basic facts of what you need to know, or alternatively you can check out our infographic, and keep it on hand for when you next need the information. You can also check our Frequently Asked Questions page.