If you hail from England, Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland and you are looking forward to a trip to the USA, you need to apply for a ESTA Visa before entering the USA. ESTA is an acronym for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation and is operational since 2010. It is necessary to possess the US ESTA Visa to pass through US immigration.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) of the USA has undergone drastic changes over the past three decades. It came to the fore in 1986 with the primary aim to promote tourism among nations friendly with the USA. But since the events of 9/11, the US has made it mandatory to opt for ESTA for travellers. Here is the list of top things to know about a US Visa if you are travelling to the USA from the UK.
What Is A Visa Waiver Program?
The Department of Homeland Security oversees the Visa Waiver Program. It enables eligible citizens of designated nations to travel to the United States for business trips and travel purposes. The number of VWP business visitors has grown substantially over the past few years. Moreover, VWP admissions make up an essential portion of the visitors and tourist who come to the US each year. The requirements to travel under the VWP include possessing an e-passport or possessing the ESTA authorisation.
What Is An ESTA?
As UK citizens, you can travel to the USA without the need to apply for a VISA. However, instead of the visa, British citizens can go to the United States using the ESTA. Upon completion of the ESTA application, a traveller is notified of his or her eligibility to go to the US under the VWP.
The ESTA Permits You to Travel for Business and Tourism Purposes
Provided that you are going for 90 days or less, the ESTA allows you to tour the US for business and pleasure purposes. It is essential to comprehend what ‘business purposes’ stands for as this does not encompass travelling to seek employment opportunities. Instead, travelling for business purposes denote visiting the USA to attend meetings and seminars. Apart from tourism and business, as a UK citizen, you can use the US with an ESTA. For instance, you can go to the US with an ESTA for short-term health treatments or attend academic courses that are under three months.
The ESTA Application Process Is Automated
Unlike any visa applications of the US, when you apply for the ESTA, the whole process is automated. No physical documentation is needed whatsoever. Your data which you have provided is cross-checked with a range of databases. The decision as to whether or not to approve your application for ESTA is based on the digital information. As a British citizen, you should also note that under no situation can you reapply for an ESTA. You also cannot extend it. However, you are always welcome to renew it. Renewing an ESTA takes only 10 minutes.
The Documents Needed To Apply For an ESTA
An ESTA application is filed online. Here is the list of documents which you would need while applying for an ESTA.
- Your passport number and Personal Identification Number
- An e-passport which should have an embedded digital chip comprising your biometric info. It should carry a six-month validity period from the date of travel
Always Note That the ESTA Is Not a Visa
When your application is approved, you are authorised to visit the country without a permit. The information which you have provided during the application process has already been screened. You have been deemed eligible to visit the USA.
When you apply for the ESTA online, you would be updated about its status within 24 hours. On the other hand, the approval process for a visa while visiting the USA can take many weeks. Hence, applying for an ESTA is an appropriate choice for UK citizens.
When Approved, Your ESTA Is Valid for Two Years
Unlike visas to the US, ESTAs can only ever be valid for two years. Unlike other types of travel authorisation documents, the ESTA cannot be extended when you are in the USA. The two-year period begins on the day when you are approved and cleared to visit the USA. In most cases, this is the same day you have applied for the ESTA application.
Usually, a vast majority of ESTA applications are approved, and the applicants are immediately deemed eligible to visit the USA. However, in cases where applications are not recommended, it is always a good idea to check your details twice or thrice before applying.