After the occurrence of the 9/11 incident, the USA government brought the concept of ESTA into prevalence under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to ensure the increased security and safety of the USA. ESTA which is short for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an automated system that determines the eligibility of foreign nationals who come under the radar VWP and answers the frequently asked questions regarding VWP. Although, it is just an authorization that doesn’t assure the final entry to the USA, yet many foreign nationals get confused between the visa and USA ESTA and the relevance of ESTA. So, in order to clear that misconception and confusion revolving around ESTA and its relevance, this blog gathers some important things that are worth noting.
1- ESTA is not a visa- The foremost confusion that almost everyone has is that ESTA is a visa, the possession of which will allow the entry in the USA. However, ESTA is not a visa because it doesn’t comply with any visa law and legislation. The process of obtaining an ESTA is as short as 24hours which might take weeks in case of a visa.
2- Approved ESTA is valid for two years- Unlike USA visa, ESTA stands valid for only two years from the date of approval. However, if the passport of the visitor expires before the completion of the two years, then it is mandatory for that visitor to leave the USA before the expiry of the ESTA. Therefore, it is advised to make sure that the passport should hold the validity of at least two years to make most out of the USA ESTA visa.
3- ESTA allows a stay of ninety days- The holder of the USA ESTA is allowed to stay in the nation for not more than ninety days at a time and that duration begins from the date of arrival in the USA. But if the foreign visitors want to stay for more than ninety days, then they can apply for a standard visa.
4- ESTA supports business and tourism purposes- Business purpose includes meetings, conferences, congresses, etc. that along with tourism is served by the ESTA which permits foreign nationals with an aim to take a tour to the USA and seek business opportunities enter the USA.
5- Shows three responses to the ESTA application- Generally, ESTA application response is received by applicants in three different types- authorization approved, authorization pending, and travel not authorized which is conveyed to the applicants in maximum 24hours.
6- ESTA cannot be renewed- In no circumstances, anyone can renew an ESTA but can re-apply for a new one as many times as needed. The fact that filling and submitting an ESTA application itself takes not more than ten minutes, this process is as quick as getting an existing ESTA visa renewed. Moreover, even if the passport of the ESTA holder is lost or stolen, he will be required to re-apply for the ESTA.
7- Apply for a visa if ESTA is disapproved- In the scenario when the ESTA approval is denied to the ESTA applicant, the foreign visitors can still apply for a standard USA visa. Therefore, it is advised to always apply for ESTA weeks prior to the date of departure so that you end up with enough time to apply for the visa in case of ESTA disapproval.
8- Final entry is determined border patrol agent- The ESTA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorization is only an automated system not allowing the final entry to the USA, the decision of which lies with the border patrol agents. To ensure security around the border, the border agents ask visitors a couple of questions regarding their purpose of travel or economic status before granting final entry.
The foregoing things about the ESTA and its relevance stand helpful in mitigating the confusion among many visitors from foreign nationalities regarding the ESTA and its usefulness.