An Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA) became mandatory on January 12, 2009, meaning even individuals from Visa Waiver countries still need to obtain an ESTA before visiting the United States. For example, while United Kingdom citizens are exempt from obtaining a B-2 visa before visiting the United States, they will still have to apply for an ESTA.
What Is an ESTA?
An ESTA allows the Department of Homeland Security to pre-screen all travelers before they enter the United States. This process can take a few weeks to complete but, unlike other visas, can be done entirely online.
Process for Applying for an ESTA
The ESTA is a four-step process, download the ESTA form, fill in the required information, submit the form electronically, and submit your payment for the ESTA ($21). Once all of that is done, it may take a couple of weeks for the Department of Homeland Security to review your application and provide you with a determination letter.
Do Minors Need an ESTA?
Yes, if you are traveling with a minor, they will also need an ESTA. You can fill one out for them online too.
Duration of Stay
An ESTA is valid for two years; however, you cannot stay in the United States for more than 90-days at a time on an ESTA. The 90 days is calculated from the day you physically enter the country. If you need to stay longer than 90 days, you will need to apply for a visa that is appropriate for your needs.
You must prove the following to be eligible for ESTA:
- You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country.
- You are currently not in possession of a visitor’s visa.
- Your travel is for 90 days or less.
- You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure.
- You want to apply for a new authorization for one person or a group of applications for two or more persons.
Denied an ESTA?
If you were denied an ESTA and your circumstances have not changed, you will likely be rejected again. Therefore, you should attempt to apply for a different nonimmigrant visa at the closest U.S. Embassy. The Department of Homeland Security will generally only deny ESTA for individuals who are ineligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program or have been deemed a threat to law enforcement.
Redress Inquiry Program
The ESTA website links to the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) website. This website provides that is the single point of contact for attempting to resolve ESTA issues. However, there are no guarantees that the ESTA denial will be resolved in your favor. Essentially you file a complaint, and they will either resolve or deny your complaint.
Still Have Questions?
If you or someone you know has been denied or is applying for an ESTA, contact an immigration attorney to help with the process and your next steps. Leslie I. Snyder is an experienced immigration attorney eligible to practice immigration law in all 50 states. Notably, she can help protect your rights and represent your interests in obtaining an ESTA. Contact Leslie I. Snyder, P.A. for a free, confidential consultation by calling (305) 859-9580 or contact the firm online.