In recent years, the U.S. Government has worked to strengthen travel security in relation to
persons entering its borders. The ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorization’, or ESTA, is
a system designed to determine your eligibility to travel to the USA without the need for
a visa, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
You can apply for ESTA online, and the form is straightforward and can be completed in a
matter of minutes. Normally the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recommends that
you fill in and submit your form at least 72 hours before you are due to being your journey
to the USA, but because the system is automated your application is normally processed
quickly and is usually reviewed in minutes. For more information on what details are
required when filling out the form, click here.
If your application is accepted, the ESTA form grants you an approved authorisation prior travel
to the U.S. without a visa. However, authorisation via ESTA does not determine whether you
can enter the United States - this will be decided by CBP officers upon your arrival.
What ESTA does do is allow for biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions
to be collected. It is not a visa, and does not meet the requirements to serve instead
of a visa in the U.S.
It is now mandatory for all citizens of VWP countries to obtain ESTA when travelling to or
even through the USA by air or sea, provided it is for 90 days or less for purposes business
or pleasure. Outside of these parameters, a visa shall be required. The requirement extends
to all persons travelling, including children and infants.
Your authorised ESTA is valid for 2 years, and during this period you can make any number
of 90 day trips for business or tourism, provided your passport does not expire in this period.
Your ESTA will also become invalid if you overstay the 90-day period. Certain changes in your
circumstances and personal details can also invalidate your authorisation, including your legal
name, citizenship, and criminal record. Some changes might mean that you can no longer travel