72 Hour ESTA Rule Catches Out Travelers to the US

The ESTA system that is available to citizens of the Visa Waiver Program can usually be processed very quickly but there are times when this is not possible. Earlier this year, the US government updated their guidance to state that people traveling to the US should apply at least 72 hours before the departure time.

Having this period of time then allows for any issues such as technical problems, which caused issues recently. A system error caused large volumes of travellers to miss their flights, as they had left it too late to submit their ESTA application and get it processed in time.

This has highlighted that many people are unaware of the changes that have been introduced and the need to apply earlier than you previously needed to. Whilst system errors don’t happen that often, they are always possible and can take around 24 hours to rectify, so the 72 hours give that essential amount of time to get the ESTA processed in the event of one of these errors.

What is an ESTA?

An ESTA stands for eletronic system for travel authorization and allows citizens from agreed countries to visit the US for business or tourism purposes without the need for a visa. It was introduced to help the tourism industry in the US, whilst still practicing strict checks to keep security levels high.

To apply for an ESTA, you simply fill in a short online form that usually takes no more than 10 minutes. The form includes a number of questions such as personal details, as well as medical questions and criminal activity that determine whether the US government will approve the application. Usually, the applicant will receive a response regarding their application within a few hours but this is not always the case, as travellers discovered when the technical errors occurred recently.

Important information about ESTA

An ESTA is valid for two years , or until your passport expires, whichever comes sooner. Due to this, it makes sense to apply for your ESTA well in advance of your intended trip to the US, to avoid the disappointment of having their trip cancelled.

Another great benefit of having an ESTA is that it allows travel authorization for multiple trips to the US whilst it is valid. Once your ESTA expires, you will need to fill in the application for another ESTA, there is not a renewal of the ESTA.

To apply for an ESTA, you require a valid email address, a valid passport and a card to pay the application fee with. It is also important to remember that when your passport expires, your ESTA will also expire and therefore you would require a new application.

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