When you are planning your trip to the United States, it is usually an exciting time but can also be extremely confusing. One of the areas that many people have problems with is the application process for their electronic travel authorization, or ESTA. While many people think that they will need to apply for a VISA, this generally isn’t true unless the trip is going to last more than 90 days. ESTAs are issues both for business purposes and visits like vacations.
Know when and where to apply for an ESTA
This seems like a pretty obvious one, but it’s easy to get mixed up and end up not having enough time to complete the process. It’s a good idea to make sure you get it done at least 3 days before you are planning to leave. Due to the fact that the ESTA is good for 2 years from the date that you apply for it, it’s a better idea to get it done before you even book the travel arrangements as long as time allows for it.
The 90-day timer can also cause some confusion for many people as there are questions about when the timer actually resets. In general, the timer resets when you leave the United States and return to a different country. If you decide to travel to Mexico, Canada, or an island adjacent to the United States, the timer does not reset.
While in these territories, the timer continues. If the total length of time in the United States and these areas will be longer than 90 days, it’s important that you apply for a VISA instead of an ESTA or you could be at risk of legal problems.
Fortunately, the process is pretty convenient as it can be done completely online for $72 that is payable with either a credit card or even a PayPal account. It’s extremely important to remember that the ESTA is tied directly to your passport, so if your passport is set to expire before your trip will be over, so will your ESTA.
The ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States
While the ESTA certainly does speed along the process of entry into the US., in the end, it is up to a border control agent whether or not you are allowed in. It’s important to remember that the ESTA does not allow you to work in the United States and you may be asked questions concerning your financial status and plans to pay for your trip to the United States. As long as you’re being honest during application and at the border, the process is rather straight-forward and it is pretty rare to come across major problems that will interfere with your entry.
While the application process usually takes around a business day, there is still a possibility of complications that will lead to delays or even the refusal of entry. If an ESTA application is rejected, generally you will have to go through the complete VISA application process which takes a considerably longer length of time in general.