The ESTA form was created in 2009 following the introduction of the Visa Waiver Program. This visa waiver program is open to nationals of the 38 member countries of the scheme. Specifically, the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows travel to the United States less than three months in a row without applying for a US visa. This visa exemption saves time and money. However, the US authorities have established strict rules to be visa-free, there is no guarantee that you will definitely get this temporary travel authorization.
Conditions to apply ESTA online
The ESTA form is not intended to replace the USA visa. These two travel authorizations have different purposes. Although easier to obtain, ESTA is subject to strict selection criteria. Here are the points that must be respected to be eligible for ESTA:
- the trip to the United States must be for a tourist purpose, professional or for a transit. Please note, for business trips, only business trips are allowed. If you are considering working for a US company or even doing an internship, it is mandatory to apply for a visa at the US Embassy;
- the stay in the USA does not exceed 90 days;
- the traveler must have a valid passport. It can be a biometric or electronic passport;
- Entry on American soil is by air or sea.
When you are satisfied that the ESTA eligibility requirements apply to you, you can apply for the official ESTA application . To complete this formality, the US State requires to fill out an online form. This questionnaire is relatively easy to access, just go to the official website of the US government or on a private site that offers a support service in the approach related to the ESTA.
This form is composed of several parts. To begin, you will need to provide your marital status and certain elements of your passport (country of issue, date of issue, passport number, etc.). You will then need to detail the reasons for your stay in the United States. Finally, some questions will be asked, especially about your moral conduct and your health.
The possible status of your ESTA authorization application
When the ESTA form is completed and sent, it is analyzed by the US Customs and Border Protection (US Customs and Border Protection) computer systems. Whatever the decision, an answer is given to you within 72 hours after sending the form. Three situations are possible:
- “approved” authorization, then you can travel to the US without visa;
- “pending” authorization, your file must be further verified;
- “refused” permission, you are unable to visit the United States without a visa.
The overwhelming majority of ESTA applications result in approval, however, in some cases the government may reject the solicitation. If this happens to you, know that you have a second chance if the refusal is due to a typo or mistake of inattention. All you need to do is re-apply online.
It is also possible that you do not meet the requirements set by the US administration. This may be the case, for example, if you have recently traveled to one of the “Muslim Ban” countries (Iraq, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria, Sudan, Yemen) or if you have a communicable disease (tuberculosis, STD, etc.). Note that the refusal of ESTA does not necessarily mean that you have to cancel your trip to the USA. Indeed, you always have the possibility to apply for a USA visa via consular services.
If your application for a temporary residence permit has been approved, you can then use it for 24 months, as many times as necessary. The only restrictive condition is the length of stay, which must be limited to 90 days maximum.