What is an ESTA?
Traditionally when any UK Citizen travelled to the United States of America (USA), they were required to comply with the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) this used to be the old green form (I-94W) which you used to fill whilst on route to the USA. This method had many failures, as you would not find out your immigration status until you arrived to border control, this could prove to be extremely costly, as your entire trip would be cancelled if not granted entry.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is the replacement system for the original Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Anyone travelling to the USA by Air or Sea will be required to obtain an ESTA, if you are entering via a land crossing you will be still required to fill in the I-94W form unless you have an approved ESTA. This truly is a great benefit for anyone wanting to travel to the USA, as you will now find out your immigration status before even booking a ticket, additionally it will minimise any costs incurred if not being granted an ESTA (for example, flight, hotel and car hire).
It must be emphasised that because you have an ESTA it by no way means you will be guaranteed entry, it is more of a case of you will be entitled to travel to the USA. The final decision to entry will be decided by a US Customs and Border Protection Officer, they will ultimately decide if your application fits their criteria. The majority of applicants will be successful in gaining entry unless they have not declared any criminal convictions.
Cost of Application
When applying for the ESTA you will be charged $14 for your application, $10 will go towards US Tourism and $4 is the cost of the application, now that seems a little strange however, it is just the way the cost has been broken down. If your application as been rejected, you will only be charged the $4 and the remaining $10 will be credited to your payment card. It is highly recommended that you only use the US Department of Homeland and Security website for submitting applications. Primarily because you can ensure you have made legal application and avoid any charges, a third party site might add for making an application on your behalf.
They accept payments from American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Discover (Diners Club & JCB).
First and foremost you should complete your ESTA Application Online before you have booked your holiday saving any loss incurred if you are rejected on your application. You will be required to fill in your Passport Details (Passport Number, Issue and Expiry Date) your UK Contact Details and your US Contact Details (where you will be staying) additionally, you will be required to add your Fight Number, Airline and Departure Airport. Information regarding where you are staying can be approximate and/or amended afterwards.
When filling out the ESTA Application Form, it has to be filled on an individual basis and group applications are not accepted although you can apply on behalf of someone else.
Furthermore, you will normally receive your status instantly however, they do state it can take anywhere up to 72 hours moreover, it has a validity of two years from issue or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Always note down your Reference Number and/or print out a copy as some airlines require proof of ESTA. For additional information in regards to make an application you can find a Question & Answer Sheet on the US Department of Homeland and Security Website.
If you have been rejected an ESTA then you will have to apply for what is known as a Non-Immigrant Visa at the US Embassy, you can find full details of how to apply at the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.
ESTA Application Form Timeframe: 31. Jan. 2016 - 7. Feb. 2016
- United Kingdom, IrelandUnited States
- Application Information
- Passenger Information
- Emergency Travel & Employment
- General Declaration Questionnaire