To get a US Visa, you need to have an application submitted. However, for most non-citizens, the process is not so straightforward. You can apply online through different portals, but they are very time consuming and take many weeks.
The same applies when it comes to entering the country. If you want to travel to the United States by air without a visa, you also need to fill out the Electronic System For Travel Authorization (ESTA) form beforehand. It’s called ESTA because it’s a “pre-clearance program”. The whole process takes less than 15 minutes, which makes it a great alternative to filling out a complex, long and expensive visa application.
However, before we start talking about the advantages of ESTA, let us first understand what is the difference between ESTA and a Visa. This will help you decide whether you should be using ESTA or a standard visa to enter the United States.
When you use a visa to visit the States, you must submit your passport information along with other personal details like your address, phone number, email ID, etc. A few days later, you receive a receipt in the mail that has all your biometric data on it. You then need to go to any Visa Waiver Program office, where there would be a representative who would collect all the documents from you. Once done, they scan the original copies of those documents and send them back to the issuing agency. In case of any issues, you need to submit supporting documents, such as the ones mentioned above. And if everything goes well, you get your visa stamped into your passport.
In contrast, when you use the ESTA, you don’t have to submit any of the supporting documents. All you need to do is fill out the Electronic System For Travel Authorizations (ESTA) form.
This form asks you basic questions like your name, date of birth, gender, nationality and purpose of your trip. After this, it asks you to upload photos of yourself and your family members, along with a copy of your passport and a recent photo of yourself. Your fingerprints are also taken.
Once you’ve filled up the form, it’ll ask you to pay $14.99. When you click ‘Submit’, it’ll send you a confirmation message. You won’t get a physical document in the mail, nor will it be stored anywhere. It’ll expire after 90 days unless you renew it.
If you’re traveling to the States under the Visa Waiver Program, then you can use the ESTA instead of a visa. The following list includes some of the benefits of using ESTA instead of a visa:
How does ESTA work?
An ESTA allows you to travel to the United States without having to get a visa. Instead, you just have to complete an online form and wait for your approval. There aren’t any physical documents involved; instead, you provide only your personal information to the TSA.
There are two types of ESTAs: one for people who have a “good reason to travel” to the U.S. and another for people who wish to enter the country temporarily for business purposes.
For instance, if you are a student wishing to attend an American university and want to stay there for three months, you’d qualify for the good reason to travel scheme. You can obtain an ESTA online and use it within 60 days. If you intend to remain inside the U.S. for more than 90 days, you’d need to apply for a B1/B2 tourist visa instead.
You can apply for the good reason to travel scheme via the I-94W form. To apply for the business visa, you’d need to fill out the Form DS-160. Both these forms can be found on the official website of the Department of Homeland Security.
Some countries require their citizens to have a travel authorization from the U.S. government. One of the best ways to obtain this is to use the ESTA. You can even opt for the visa waiver program, which means you do not need a visa to travel to the U.S. In fact, there are several benefits of applying for the visa waiver program over the ESTA.
Some of them include:
If you are travelling to the U.S. for recreational purposes, you cannot avail of the visa waiver program. On the other hand, you can use the ESTA for leisure travel.
You can use the visa waiver program in addition to the ESTA if you plan to spend more than 90 days in the U.S. This isn’t possible with the ESTA alone.
With the visa waiver program, you can extend your stay beyond 90 days at a later point. This is not possible with the ESTA.
A person can apply for the esta form by filling the basic detail in the online site. If the complete concept will be clear then reaching the goals will become easy. The main motive of people is to take the step that will surely help in reaching the goals in the future. A person can take the steps and achieve the goals.
What you need to know about the visa waiver program
The Visa Waiver Program allows people from certain countries to enter the U.S. without having to apply for a visa. Some of these countries include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile and Japan. It’s important to note that the visa waiver program doesn’t allow holders of visas to enter the U.S. without getting a new visa.
The U.S. also has reciprocal agreements with several countries which allow citizens of these nations to enter the U.S. on a visa waiver basis. Some of these countries include: Colombia, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, Thailand, Ukraine, and Vietnam.
If you belong to one of the countries listed above, then you may be eligible for the visa waiver program. You’ll need to fill out the Form DS-160, which is available on the Department of Homeland Security’s website.
After submitting the form, you’ll need to show your passport and fill out a questionnaire that includes detailed information regarding your personal history and travel plans. You’ll also need to answer questions related to security, health and criminal background. Finally, you’ll be asked to pay $14.99 and wait for your approval.
It usually takes around 10 to 20 days for your approval to come through, but it could take longer depending upon the circumstances. If you don’t get any response within this period, you might need to resubmit the form again.
Using ESTA instead of a visa
Now that you know how the ESTA works, you can see why it’s considered better than a visa. It’s fast, easy and hassle free. Plus, you don’t have to worry about carrying a lot of documents while traveling. It’s also cheaper than a visa.
One thing to keep in mind is that the ESTA is valid for an unlimited amount of times. But if you want to re-enter the U.S., you’ll need a visa.