The acronym ESTA is used when referring to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This automated system is used to determine whether or not people from other countries are eligible to travel to the United States.
Operated by the US Customs and Border Protection agency, this system requires people from certain countries to fill out an application for approval before traveling to the US by airplane or by boat. The only people who are eligible to apply are people who live in countries that are eligible for the visa waiver program.
This program allows people from eligible countries to visit the United States for recreational purposes for up to 90 days without having to obtain a traditional visa. Only certain countries fall into this category. People who live in countries that are not a part of the visa waiver program still have to apply for a traditional visa.
However, people who do live in an eligible country can simply fill out an online form before traveling to the US rather than having to go through the entire process of getting a visa. This helps streamline the process of putting together travel documents while at the same time allowing US officials to pre-screen travelers before they enter the country.
The ESTA service was first implemented in 2009. The process of applying for an electronic travel authorization is incredibly easy. All that you have to do is visit the official website and fill out a simple form. The entire process can be completed online, eliminating the need to visit any type of office in person.
The information contained in the form is relatively general. They ask for your name, address, birth date, email address, and passport information. You then have to answer a series of simple questions. Once you are done filling out the form, you can submit the application. Most applications are approved as soon as they are submitted. In some cases, however, it may take up to three days to receive approval.