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To reinforce the security under the Visa Waiver Program to travel to the United States, conditions to enter the USA visa-free have been changed. All passport holders of Visa Waiver Program countries are eligible to travel to the USA without a visa, but will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States.

Understanding ESTA Apply for Esta Online

The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation or ESTA is an application process available to those travelling to the United States without a visa from a Visa Waiver Country only. Once you obtain an approved ESTA APPLICATION it is viable for a period of two years with the exception of passports which run out before this period is over. For each time you visit the USA whether for business, leisure or medical purposes, your approved travel authorisation or ESTA gives you a maximum amount of 90 days per stay.

Your ESTA is valid for 2 years from receipt unless your passport expires within this time frame. If you are only residing in the United States for a short period less than 90 days you are able to easily apply for ESTA and avoid the long winded Visa application process. ESTA is not just for British Nationals who are visiting the United States but applies to all foreign nationals of the countries within the VWP or Visa Waiver Program who are using Great Britain as a stop-over on route to the United States. ESTA is also needed if you are a citizen or national from one of the countries within the VWP flying into Great Britain from the USA, however if you are residing in the USA for a greater amount of time than the 90 days specified or if you are ineligible to enter under the VWP then you will not be authorised to visit. It is worth bearing in mind that obtaining an ESTA only allows you to travel into the United States without a Visa it does not automatically give you permission to enter this will be granted by the immigration officer at your destination of arrival in the United States.

The Visa application process is much more complex and lengthy whereas the requirements you need to obtain ESTA are less time consuming and not as complicated. You will need to complete the online application form and in order to process it, you should also have your machine-readable passport and your credit card ready to pay and complete the process. Don’t worry about having your flight details or even your place of stay while in the USA (e.g., hotel reservation) all of this information can be provided where necessary once you have obtained ESTA or prior to travel.

The ESTA application system is only available online which means there are no forms that need printing and you have no need to visit the American Consulate or Embassy. Do remember that if you are NOT a citizen of one of the countries belonging to the Visa Waiver Program then you are unable to apply however if you are, then you are at liberty to submit an application so you need to be sure before beginning your online form. Do find out whether you are suitable by taking the ESTA eligibility test.

Summary of the VWP Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program is an initiative by the US Government that allows nationals from countries participating in the VWP scheme to travel on business or leisure into the USA without needing to obtain a Visa. Not everyone is able to enter the USA under the VWP program; you must be a citizen from one of the countries within the program in order to apply. If you are not from one of the partaking countries you need to obtain a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa in advance of your trip.

The advantage of entering the USA with an approved ESTA is being able to travel at short notice but the application must be made in advance with at least 72 hours prior to travel whereas the I-84 form is normally completed while flying to the United States or prior to entering a US port of disembarkation.

When applying for your ESTA you will be required to provide the following personal information for your application: first and surname, gender, date of birth, passport number, and passport country of issue, passport expiry date and country of citizenship. You are also able to give details on your travel destination, hotel or other address of stay and your flight number. During the application process, you will be expected to answer questions of eligibility such as whether you hold any previous criminal convictions and arrests, whether you have or have had contagious or communicable diseases and disclose any information of deportation or had your Visa revoked in the past.

Should your ESTA travel application be rejected you are still able to apply for a non-immigrant Visa to enter the USA. However, you are not able to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. If you have been rejected via the VWP then you can apply for your Visa at the US Consulate or US Embassy before embarking on your trip.

With referencing to stopping over or entering the USA in transit while awaiting a connection you will still require authorisation to do so which means that whatever your travelling circumstances if you enter American soil you will need an ESTA or Visa to do so. While applying for your ESTA you should fill in "In Transit" in the Address While in the United States field as well as clearly stating your final travel destination.