Thirty eight countries across the world have signed up to the Visa Waiver Programme, allowing their citizens to travel to the United States.
Previously, if you wanted to visit the United States you needed a visa, a document which allowed you entry, but certain countries are now part of something called ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, allowing application without the rigmarole of filling in paperwork and sending it off to embassies for approval. This programme has been in place since 2008. Prior to that, passengers arriving on planes or ships had to fill in a landing form, which was handed in at a desk upon arrival on United States’ soil.
If you’re eligible for an ESTA, we can help you get it organised quickly and easily. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff will provide you with support and assistance every step of the way. We’ll check your application for any errors or omissions, before submitting it on your behalf, making your application as trouble free and simple as it could possibly be.
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Increased security in the United States means that everyone entering the country must have either a visa, or an ESTA. If you don’t have one of those forms of authorisation, you can expect to be turned away at the border, and put back on a plane or boat to your home country. The ESTA application goes straight to the United States’ Department for Homeland Security, who check that each applicant is eligible for entry. They have the final say in your application.
Even if your child is a national of one of the Visa Waiver Programme countries, or did not need their own ticket for travel, you still need to apply for an ESTA for them.
Does an ESTA guarantee entry for Visa Waiver Programme citizens?
Not necessarily. If the United States Department for Homeland Security finds that an application does not meet their criteria, applicants will need to apply for a standard visitor’s visa.
Each ESTA lasts for two years, as long as your passport doesn’t expire within that two year period. If it does, your ESTA expires with your passport, as the two are linked. You can enter the United States as many times as you like on your two year ESTA – you only need to apply once every two years.
Even if you’re only in the United States for a short time, for example as a stopover on your way to another country, you’ll need an ESTA because you’re still setting foot in the United States.
Once we’ve submitted your ESTA application, you should allow at least 72 hours for your application to be processed by the Department for Homeland Security. There’s no express option, so make sure that you get your application to us on time. In the worst case scenario, where an ESTA is declined, you will need to apply for a standard visa, which can take some time.
Each visit can last up to 90 days. If you’re planning on staying longer, you’ll need to consider applying for a residency visa.
Even if you’ve had an ESTA previously, you’ll need to make a new application if something in your life changes. As previously mentioned, a new passport will mean a new ESTA, as the two are linked. The same applies if you move to a new country, and take up citizenship there. A change of name, either first or last name, will render an existing ESTA invalid, and you’ll need to reapply with your new name. If your gender changes, your existing ESTA will become incorrect and you’ll need to reapply. Other conditions which may affect an existing ESTA include being convicted of a “crime of moral turpitude” (crimes involving fraud, larceny or intent to harm) or becoming a carrier of an infectious disease.
If you’re a citizen of one of the VWP countries, and have any more questions about applying for the visa waiver programme, contact our friendly staff. We have plenty of experience in the ESTA field, and will be able to assist you with your application.