Guest post by Josh Hobson and Sophie Jones
Applying for a visa can be a lot of work.
Traveling to the United States can be a chaotic experience. When planning a holiday, there is so much to consider, including where to go, where to stay, when to go, which airline to fly with, and applying for visas. Fortunately, one of those considerations can now be taken off that list for many travelers. You guessed it. It’s the visa. Now, citizens of more than three dozen countries can travel to the United States without one under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).
What is VWP?
The VWP was created to boost tourism into the United States, helping to decrease wait times at airports. Through the program, travelers from any of the participating countries can enter the United States without a visa. They need only complete an electronic system for travel authorization (ESTA) application.
What is ESTA?
ESTA was launched by the US government and is ideal for anyone entering the United States by boat or plane for a short stay. Simply complete the online application available through the US Department of Homeland Security website at least 72 hours prior to departure. If you’re traveling with a group, you can submit an ESTA application for up to 50 people.
Simple and Cheap
An ESTA, unlike a visa, is very easy to obtain. Applications are completed solely online, the applicant will receive a response within minutes—although some cases may take up to 72 hours. Not only is the ESTA a time saver, it’s also cost-effective, at a mere $14. A trip to the embassy to file paperwork—not to mention the costly fees and long wait time—are a thing of the past. Bare in mind that to apply for an ESTA, you must hold an electronic passport.
Who Can Apply?
You may be wondering who can apply for the ESTA. There are 38 countries that are eligible for the ESTA program, including Spain, the United Kingdom, France, Malta, and Chile. The program is intended for tourists, businesspeople, and those with a flight that connects through the United States.
Anyone entering the United States under this program can remain in the country for up to 90 days before they have to leave. The ESTA is valid for 2 years and holders can enter the US as many times as they like during that period.
Important Information that You Must Consider
Even if your ESTA is approved, you are not 100 percent guaranteed entry into the United States. Officials at the border have the ultimate say about who can enter the country. Your application may be rejected. If so, you must apply for a conventional visa.
For more useful information about ESTA, check out this video.