There is always a lot of red tape when it comes to travelling abroad. The further you go the more paperwork there is to manage. For those travelling to the United States, ESTA is quite a straightforward process, and is actually designed to make things a little less complicated, although when you are trying to organise the entire family, run a business and book your trip across the US all at the same time, it is bound to feel like the straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back.
What is ESTA?
ESTA means Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. It is all online and is similar to the online check-in service offered by airlines. It ensures that the US Immigration authorities know you are coming.
What is the point of ESTA?
The reason ESTA exists is because the US has agreed with some countries that their citizens can enter the country without a visa of any kind, for a limited period of time under the ESTA Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). ESTA is like a temporary visa without all the form-filling and interviewing that otherwise has to take place.
Under what circumstances can I use an ESTA?
If you are from a country that is listed on the VWP, such as the UK, and you are intending to visit the US for under 90 days for the purposes of tourism, some types of business trip, or because your indirect flight stops over there, you should submit an ESTA. The most complicated bit of the process is remembering to do it.
When do I need to submit an ESTA?
You will need to submit an ESTA at least 72 hours before you travel.
How do I get an ESTA Visa?
Visit www.estafasttrack.org.uk and follow the instructions. The authorities want people to use it, so it has been made as simple as possible.
What happens if I do not submit an ESTA?
Make no mistake; even if you have a dozen large bags, twin babies screaming, and a toddler wearing Mickey Mouse ears, you will be turned back by US Immigration if you have not submitted an ESTA.
Do I still need a visa?
No, not if you are a British Citizen intending to stay in the US for less than 90 days for the purposes of tourism, some business trips, or as a stopover for an indirect flight to a different country.
When should I not use an ESTA?
If you are planning to be in the US for longer than 90 days, or even if you think there is a chance you may want to stay longer, you should not use an ESTA. It is all very well thinking that you can make a short trip out of the country and then reapply. The truth is that US Immigration is likely to pick up on the ‘clock resetting’ game and will turn you away the second time whether or not you have submitted your ESTA.
If you are unsure whether or not your business trip will fall under the correct headings of the ESTA application process, take no chances. It simply is not worth the time and money wasted.