Traveling to another country requires a valid visa, and the US is no exception. However, the country has different types of visas, depending on the purpose of the visit or the individual’s country of residence. One such method is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, commonly known as ESTA, and in this section, we will guide you on how and when to apply for it.

What to know before applying for ESTA

ESTA caters to individuals belonging to countries that are a part of the US Visa Waiver Program, as per which they can travel to the US without needing a visit visa. So, if you are a resident of one of the 40 countries on the VWP list, you are eligible to apply for ESTA.

However, before you apply, you must also consider a few conditions under which you can apply for ESTA. Firstly, your purpose of traveling to the US should only be tourism, business, or transit. Secondly, your visit must be up to 90 days or less. Thirdly, you should not have a valid visit visa for the US. You can submit your application for ESTA if you meet all the requirements.

What is required to apply for ESTA?

Before submitting your application for ESTA, ensure you have an updated e-passport, i.e., a passport with a machine-readable chip containing your biometric information. You must also ensure that your passport is valid and not near expiration. While an ESTA is valid for two years, it will expire when your passport expires, even if there is time remaining in its validity window.

The ESTA application can be submitted online so you can complete the entire process from the comfort of your home. You will be required to provide your basic details, including your address, phone number, email address, and emergency phone and email address.

You may also be required to provide your identification number, a Global Entry identification number, the contact and address of your place of employment, and contact details of your point of contact in the US, if applicable.  The form also comprises a set of questions designed to rule out any security concerns regarding your application. Once you have submitted the form, you can pay online via credit card, discover, or PayPal.

When to apply

When approved, you will receive a confirmation email on the email provided at the time of application submission. You can apply for ESTA any time before traveling. However, applying at least three days before your intended travel date is recommended. Your application may be approved in a very short time if there are no issues with the application. However, it may also take up to three days, so it is better to apply ahead of time.

Your ESTA, once approved, is valid for two years, and you can travel to the US multiple times within this period, each stay not exceeding 90 days.