The ESTA visa is a form of travel authorisation that tourists who are a part of countries that are registered under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have to be allowed to enter the United States. The term ESTA visa is a bit of a misnomer, because the ESTA is not the same as, say, a B1 Visa – rather, it is something that people get in the place of a full Visa.
You can apply for the ESTA online. Usually, it is approved very quickly, but there can sometimes be issues if there are any ‘red flags’ in your past or if you suffer from a case of mistaken identity – such as if there is someone with a criminal record with the same name as you and a similar history. For this reason, it’s important that you apply well in advance of travel if possible.
ESTA stands for the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. The ESTA replaces those paper cards that people used to have to fill out when they got on the plane. If you do not have an ESTA, you will be denied boarding. You cannot fly to the USA without having that authorisation.
Be aware that there are many companies out there that advertise the ESTA and charge money to set it up for you. These companies are scammers, and you do not need to go through a third party to get one. It is actually easy to get an ESTA through the US Government official website. All you need to do is fill out a simple web form and wait for an email telling you that you have been approved. As long as you have accurately filled out the details (things like your name, address, age, passport information), then you are unlikely to have any trouble.
Many people get their ESTA approved within a few hours, but the official guidelines are that you should budget for weeks, just in case there are any issues or queries with your application. Really, it is a good idea to apply as soon as you know the dates that you will be travelling to the USA, so that you can get the ‘electronic paperwork’ completed and not have to worry about whether or not you will be approved. You will be able to rest easy once you know that it is all sorted.