Apart from your passport, you also need to have an ESTA before you travel to the USA. ESTA stand for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an electronic based system usually used to determine if visitors are right to travel to the United States of America. Usually, it is given to people who don't necessarily have a visa.
An ESTA is not an authorization to get into the USA. Even with the ESTA, you will still need to have approval from the customs and border protection during entry into the country. An ESTA is compulsory for all the countries that signed the Visa Waiver program. This is the program that allows people from all the participating countries to get into the USA for a maximum of 90 days without having an entry visa. You have to complete an online ESTA form before you travel.
How do you apply for an ESTA form?
The only way to apply for it is to go online and complete the application form. All you need is your passport details and the process takes only a few minutes. Once you apply, you are likely to get one of three responses. First, your authorization could be approved and you will be cleared to get into the United States. If not, your authorization will be denied and it will be possible for you to get into the country. The third response could be authorization pending and your application might require more time for a decision to be made.
How long does it take?
Once you submit your ESTA form, the application will be queried against the law enforcement the US, in the US which could only take a few seconds. Your ESTA will be valid for 2 years or until your passport expires if it's less than 2 years. you can use it for multiple entries within those two years as long as you stay in the country for 90 or fewer days. If you apply for a new passport within the two years, you need to get your ESTA renewed. ESTA renewal is just as easy as the application.
When should you apply for the ESTA?
It is recommended that a person applies at the very least 72 hours before departing. It is actually advisable to apply as soon as you decide to travel just in case the authorization is denied. If denied, you might need to get a visa and it takes up to 6 weeks for an appointment with the embassy. You should only start paying for your trip once the ESTA has been approved.
What if you arrive in the USA without an ESTA?
If you don't apply for this form, you will not be allowed in the USA. There are chances that you could be sent back home or get detained. You might even be denied boarding during departure if you don't have it. This is why it is advisable to apply for it before you start planning for your trip.