A Brief Explanation of ESTA

ESTA an acronym for the Electronic System For Travel Authorization has been a compulsory document for people planning to visit the United States since 2010. However, it has not been particularly promoted properly and airlines still have to deal with individuals showing up at the airport without proper documentation. Also, this confusion has not been helped by the numerous bogus websites that charge high fees in order to ‘help’ individuals apply for an ESTA. This brief post explains what ESTA is and how you can get it.

So, What’s the ESTA?

The Electronic System For Travel Authorization is not a visa but a part of post 9/11 system implemented to enhance security for people entering America from countries that are members of the Visa Waiver Program.

Who Requires It?

Any person traveling to the United States on business or a tourist for 3 months or less and is from a country in the Visa Waiver Program is obligated to have an ESTA or they won’t even be able to board a flight. Even if you’re just passing through the US in transit, you’re still required to have a valid ESTA. However, if you enter the US by land from Canada or Mexico, you won’t need to have authorization.

How To Apply For One.

Applying for ESTA isn’t hard and takes at most 10 minutes. You can only do it online and it’s available at cbp.gov/esta. The process involves filling out a form including your personal details such passport number, destination’s address and such.

Applying for ESTA is not free and costs $14, payable by credit card. $4 goes towards the Tourism Agency and $10 is used for authorization, which is refunded if you are not approved. Keep in mind that there are numerous companies online that offer to help with the application of ESTA, sometimes charging a fee of up to $80. However, this is not necessary, as the process is easy and there’s no need for third party involvement.

How Long Does it Take?

For most individuals, confirmation of that the document has gone through is received almost instantly. However, the Homeland Security Department recommends that you apply at least 72 hours before the day of travel. Ensure that you stay hold of your confirmation number or even print it out.

The Department of Homeland Security will tell your airline that your ESTA has been approved and so, you don’t really need to take a copy of your authorization to the airport.