When planning a trip to the United States, you must obtain an ESTA for the USA before you travel – you cannot apply upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry or embassy.
You can apply for ESTA at any time before travelling to the United States, and should do so no less than 72 hours before you travel. While you may be able to be accommodated if you miss that deadline, for your convenience and to ensure you obtain the right to travel into the United States, you should apply for your ESTA visa at least three days before you are due to travel.
It’s not necessary to have a fixed plan to travel to the US to apply for an ESTA, and for that reason you are advised to apply for one as soon as you begin to plan a trip to the United States, rather than leaving it until later on. If you do apply early on in your planning stages, there is no need to update any destination addresses or items on your itinerary even if they are changed after your ESTA visa has been approved. Once granted, your ESTA is usually valid for up to two years, or until your passport expires, whichever instance occurs first.
There are some circumstance in which you may need to reapply for an ESTA. If you get a new passport, change your name, change your gender or country of citizenship, or if the answers to any of the “yes or no” questions on the ESTA application change, you will need to apply for a new ESTA. If you have two passports, you must travel using the passport you have obtained the ESTA registration for.
In the majority of cases, you will be told immediately if you have been accepted to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) when you apply for your ESTA.
Please note that the approval of an ESTA does not guarantee a traveller the right to enter the United States – it can only give authorisation for you to board a mode of transport for travel to the United States using the Visa Waiver Program. It is the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officers who determine admissions into the United States, at the port of entry.
The ESTA is an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, and this means you need to complete the ESTA form online, and you will receive an electronic confirmation once your ESTA is approved as well. This means that if you do not have access to the Internet and therefore cannot apply online yourself, you must find and ask a third party, for example a relative or travel agent, to fill out and submit the ESTA form online for you. Even if a third party completes the ESTA application for you, you will still be legally responsible for all the information in the answers you give .
There are a number of questions you need to answer when completing the ESTA application. You must give your full name, your date of birth and your passport information including passport number, and the address of your destination in the United States.
You will also need to answer a range of questions which are designed to determine your eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program. These questions relate to different areas such as your health, for example any communicable diseases you may have, any arrests and convictions you have on record for varying crimes committed, and your immigration history, such as whether or not you have had a visa revoked in the past, and any past deportations you have experienced.
All information necessary for your ESTA application form must be provided in English. You are advised to set your computer keyboard to U.S. English and to use a clear, English font when filling out your online ESTA application.
To set your computer’s language and font using a computer operating system of Microsoft Windows 95 or higher, please visit the following website to correctly configure your computer before you begin to fill out the ESTA application: http://www.conversationexchange.com/resources/keyboard-language.php#xp
If your computer uses a non-Windows operating system, please check the information provided by your specific operating system vendor.