When do you need an ESTA visa?

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If you are a national of a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country and plan to take a trip to the United States via air or sea for ninety days or less, you will need an ESTA visa or permit. Since there is a difference between conditions under which you need an ESTA permit or a regular visa, it is pertinent to understand the difference between the two instances and when you can apply for an ESTA.

Here is a brief description of an ESTA and when you need it.

What is ESTA

Simply put, ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is a computerised system in place to facilitate residents of VWP countries seeking entry to the US without needing a visa.

The US has a Visa Waiver Programs for around 39 countries, whereby the residents of these countries can travel to the US without a visa and stay here for 90 days or less if the purpose of the trip is business, transit, or travel. They can apply for an ESTA and gain entry based on this permit.

When do I need an ESTA?

ESTA is a relatively newly introduced program and is popular among residents of the VWP countries as the acquisition process is comparatively easy and can be done entirely online. However, there are a few conditions for ESTA.

As stated above, according to the rules of the VWP, you must be a national of one of the countries that are listed on visa-free program implemented by the US. Besides this, there are other some other conditions as well.

  • The purpose of your travel to the US should be tourism, transit, or business.
  • Your stay in the US will not exceed 90 days.
  • You must enter into the country via air or sea.

In any other condition, you may need to apply for a US visa through the proper channel, even if you are resident of a country that is listed on the VWP. It is pertinent to note that an ESTA is not a 100 percent guarantee for entry into the country. The final decision for your entry lies with the US border control. The port or airport authorities will verify the legitimacy of your visa-free status and ESTA, and if all the information is accurate and in order, you will be granted admission.

It is also pertinent to note that when your ESTA application is approved, it will be valid for two years, and you can travel to the US as many times as you like within this time frame. However, as the condition states, you cannot stay beyond 90 days in one visit.

Therefore, as long as your application is in order and you do not have a problematic record, you can easily obtain ESTA and should not have any problems in this regard.

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