ESTA for California: Visa Requirements & Application

California: What you can visit in the Sunshine State? Apply for ESTA.

In this article

When you are planning a trip to California there are so many different places to visit, so you should fully plan your visit by finding out about everything in the area. California is a huge state in the US including both San Francisco and Los Angeles, amongst other big cities.
A bus tour of the city will take you to see the sets of some famous movie moments such as Pretty Woman and many others. If you keep your eyes peeled, you might even spot the odd celebrity or two on your visit. You can also visit Disneyland in LA and Santa Monica Pier is another hot tourist spot. You can’t visit LA without heading to one of the many famous beaches like Malibu or Venice Beach. If you fancy a spot of surfing or topping up your tan, then there are plenty of great beaches to choose from in LA.

Top Attractions in California

visa for San Franciscovisa for San Francisco

Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz

If you take a boat trip to Alcatraz then you can take in the iconic Golden Gate Bridge at the same time. You can join the guided tours to find out all about the notorious criminals that served time here and the escape attempts.
visa for Californiavisa for California

Walk of Fame and Chinese Theater

Los Angeles is home to many celebrities, with some of the world’s biggest actors, music artists and TV presenters living in the area. The famous Walk of Fame stars are in the center of Hollywood and the Chinese Theatre is a top place to go to see the handprints and footprints of stars past and present.
visa for Los Angelesvisa for Los Angeles

Universal Studios

A trip to Universal Studios should be top of your ‘Things to do’ in California. There are loads of fun rides and attractions including a Harry Potter themed area.

Do I need a visa to visit California?

The US operates with a visa system for foreign nationals which is part of their border security policy. There is an agreement in place called the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which 38 countries are currently included and the citizens from those select countries can travel using an ESTA for California and will not require a California visa.

What is an ESTA California?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and it can be applied for using an online form that takes no more than ten minutes to complete. Anyone from a country in the VWP who wants to visit California for less than 90 days can send an application for their ESTA. The limit for any trip to the US is 90 days in total, so if you are planning on taking a longer trip, you would need to apply for a visa for California.

What purposes of travel is an ESTA for?

If you are travelling to California for tourism or business purposes then an ESTA is applicable for these purposes, provided that your visit is for no longer than 90 days. An ESTA is not for purposes such as employment or studying in California. If you are planning on working or studying in the US, then you will require a visa instead of an ESTA

How to apply for a visa for California?

If you are eligible for an ESTA for your travel plans to California, then you simply need to complete an online form that requires you to provide information such as your personal details, passport details and also some answers related to your health and any criminal convictions. You will need to pay an application fee for the ESTA and then submit it to get it processed.
Your information in the application will then be checked and some backgrounds checks performed to determine whether your ESTA will be approved. Usually, you will receive a response about your ESTA application very quickly, although if there are any errors on the application or issues with the checks then this may take longer. It is advised that you give adequate time to apply for your ESTA in advance of your travel plans, to ensure you can resolve any issues with the application.
If you are applying for a visa instead of an ESTA then the process is a bit more complicated and it will take longer, as you are required to arrange an interview at the US Embassy in order to have a visa approved. However, if you are travelling to the US to work or to study, or for any other reasons other than tourism or business (less than 90 days) then a visa is the only option.
The first step of applying for a visa is to complete the DS-160 form which is considerably longer than the online ESTA form. Then you must arrange your interview and you will also need to collate all of the requested documents to take to your interview. The application fee for a visa is more expensive than an ESTA and the processing time is much longer too, so if you are eligible for an ESTA, this is the much easier way to travel to California.

Do I need to take a copy of my ESTA?

When your ESTA is approved, it will electronically get linked to your passport so in theory, you should not need a copy of it at the airport, all the information the agents at border security require is available when they scan your passport. However, to stay on the safe side, you can take a copy just in case there are any issues when you get to border security.

How long is the ESTA valid for?

An ESTA is usually valid for two years, or until your passport expires (whichever comes sooner). As your ESTA is linked to your passport, if your passport gets renewed before the two years are over, you will need to apply for a new ESTA.
During the two years that your ESTA is valid, you can make multiple trips to California, or anywhere in the US providing that you do not overstay the 90-day limit on an ESTA. Your ESTA must be valid on the day that you arrive to the US, so if it is due to expire soon, it is always better to apply for a new ESTA rather than risk your ESTA expiring if your flight is cancelled, or delayed etc.
When you are in California, you can visit other states around the US without needing your ESTA, it is only when you are entering the US that your ESTA is required.

Can I extend an ESTA?

It is not possible to extend an ESTA. Once the ESTA is no longer valid, you must complete a new application, the same way you did for your ong original ESTA.
Airports
LAX is the main airport in California if you are heading into LA but there are several others across the state, including San Francisco International, San Diego International and Oakland International, so you have a good choice of airports depending on where you are headed to first on your trip to California. LAX is one of the busiest airports in the world and you can get flights to LAX from most major cities.

Working in California

There are all kinds of industries in California to find work in. Many people head to LA in seek of fame and fortune but there are plenty of jobs in the tourism industry, retail and most others. California is quite big on health and fitness, so if you are qualified in this area then you could find that type of work in one of the many gyms.
You can apply for an ESTA if you are travelling to the US from one of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. This will give you permission to enter the US for a period of up to 90 days, for both work and tourist purposes.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


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