Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA is an automatic system that determines the eligibility of visitors who intend to travel to the United States using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The kind of authorization done through ESTA does not determine a visitor’s admission to the United States. The officers at the Border and Customs Protection Center are the ones in charge of determining the admissibility of any visitor. ESTA application is only responsible for the collection of biographic info that is used to answer the Visa Waiver Program questions. The applications done at ESTA can be submitted at any time before an individual’s travel date. However, it is more advisable for travelers to submit their applications as soon as their traveling preparations start.
Application of ESTA
The United States government requires every visitor to submit the authorization request papers at least 72 hours before traveling. This is however not very necessary as most applications are approved within minutes. In case a traveler is from a country that is listed as visa-free travel restricted countries, he or she needs to apply for a Visa at U.S Consulate in their country. The process is usually very lengthy and sometimes requires an interview with an officer at the consulate.
Every travel authorized under ESTA is valid for two years or less. Nonetheless, a visa waiver program eligible traveler is required to obtain a new ESTA authorization in case they lose their passport, changes the gender or citizenship, or any other circumstance that may require the acquisition of a new passport. Apart from that, any traveler eligible for ESTA authorization must apply for a new authorization if one of the questions in ESTA eligibility forms changes.
Duration of Stay
Entry to the U.S using VWP is only valid for a particular combined maximum stay, and ninety days for the countries surrounding the United States. The admission period under the program is not extendable. If a visitor intends to extend their stay, then they are required to apply for a regular visa.
Third Party Sites
ESTA application forms can be accessed through some websites but at a certain fee. The normal access and application can be done through the official United States government page for any visitor who is eligible for the program. The effort to prevent the third party sites fee became more difficult when the United States government fee was made mandatory, making the former educative forces focus their efforts on trying to prove that ESTA was not free of charge. However, even in the other sites, the forms filled are still the same.