If you’re here and wondering what an ESTA is then you are probably looking at making a short trip to the United States (US) in the near future (or planning longer term on a H-1B Visa).
You’ve also likely been informed you’ll need to supply your details to the American government via ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) to obtain a Visa Waiver allowing you to travel you need to go the official ESTA website (if you’re looking for additional information in regards to ESTA, you can also check out sites like estaform.org).
What is ESTA?
Introduced in 2010, ESTA is an online system via which you supply documentation and details to gain permission to enter the United States for leisure or business purposes, for less than 90 days (if you are moving permanently to the US then you will require a different type of travel authorisation).
Whether you are on business in the US at that time, or you are simply going for tourism purposes, making an application via ESTA is typically required before entry. It is recommended that you apply for the ESTA at least 72 hours before you are due to travel to ensure you obtain the authorisation (to avoid getting stuck at American immigration). Overall, ESTA makes it easier for business people and tourists alike to make regular trips to the US without having to fill out the more time-consuming paperwork required for more traditional visas.
It’s also important to note ESTA is only currently available to 38 countries including Denmark, United Kingdom, Chile… (although this covers a large amount of the world by population).
How long are Visa Waivers valid (via ESTA)?
Visa Waivers received via ESTA are currently valid for two years from the application date, so in that period you can make multiple visits to the US without the need to re-apply for ESTA authorisation. Once your Visa Waiver has expired you cannot extend, you will be required to reapply for a new one if you travel to the US after the two years of validity.
Subscribe for entrepreneurial & small business advice
Subscribe to our newsletter for advice and insights on starting, managing and growing a small business in the UK.
Form guidance on applying for a Visa Waiver
Applying for a Visa Waiver via ESTA is relatively easy, but in case you need more information you can find lots of guidance on the ESTA website to help you with any queries. The website will walk you through the different sections of the form that you are required to complete. Most of the questions are standard questions about your personal details, but there are also a number of questions to ascertain whether you meet the US criteria for being allowed into the country, for instance; you will be required to answer questions about any criminal convictions and whether you have visited certain countries in the last eight years.