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This is a guest post by Josh Hobson, who has written an in depth website on the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) used by the United States. Why is this important to you? If you’ve got family or friends coming over to visit for the first time, who haven’t travelled in a while, they’ll need to know about the tourist visa process. So settle in for a quick read!
Even with the chaos that has ensued from the US election last year, many people are still travelling to the United States. Granted, some are visiting for different reasons. For example, many are travelling for a holiday and others are flocking to the US for business reasons. There are a select few that travel there because, well, they simply have to for a connecting flight.
Three different reasons for travelling to the US, but all of these people have something in common. Throw these reasons for travel to the US in the mix along with being a citizen of Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and 35 other countries, and you’ve got two things in common before they’ve even hit customs.
WHAT’S THE COMMON THREAD?
That’s easy, they’re all able to travel to the United States without a visa. Instead, they can apply for an ESTA. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation was created to increase processing speeds of tourists and the like, through air and sea ports. Also, it means that anyone who applies for an ESTA can be vetted by the US prior to arriving in the country.
Visiting a family member in the US is a little easier because instead of applying for a visa; you can just apply for an ESTA. You can find more information on eligibility on the US Customs and Border Protection website.
WHY APPLY FOR AN ESTA?
Cost: $14. Substantially cheaper than a visa. Need I say more?
Time: Applications take around 20 minutes to complete and receive a response within 72 hours, although, this can literally take just minutes.
Effort: A traditional visa requires a lot of time to visit an embassy. Not for the ESTA though – the application is completed online.
Validity: Whereas a usual visa generally lasts for around six months; the ESTA is valid for two years. During those two years, you can travel to the US as many times as your heart desires.
Length: ESTA holders can stay in the country for up to 90 days on any given stay.
ESTA IS FOR EVERYONE (EVEN KIDS!)
Unlike previous decades, children and toddlers also require an ESTA. If they are citizens of a Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) country, it is mandatory. Otherwise, it is crucial that they have a visa. Children and toddlers are not able to travel on their parents’ passports or ID cards anymore.
Parents can complete the ESTA application for their children online. Be sure to fill out the section declaring that you are filling in the form on behalf of somebody else – and make sure you provide the correct information, as their legal guardian. If you want to apply for an ESTA for yourself or your children, you can do that here.
That’s right, there are restrictions. You can only use an ESTA for travelling, so you are unable to work or study.
And as mentioned earlier, you can only stay in the US for 90 times during each separate visit to the US. Obviously, you can travel to the US as often as you want with a valid ESTA. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t return more than two or three times each year and you should never stay for more than 180 days per year.
Otherwise, you could arouse suspicion that you’re doing something you shouldn’t be.