If you are planning for a short visit to the United States, whether to spend a holiday or for a business reason, you would find no better way to get a travel authorization than the ESTA program. The ETSA, or The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, provides the citizens of the program member countries with a straightforward, rapid means to apply for a US travel authorization.
About the ESTA
Initiated in 2009, the ESTA has aimed to facilitate the travel to the US for the citizens of certain countries if it was for less than three months. By filling the online application form, you present answers about yourself and the travel to the American immigration authorities; the approval or disapproval on the applicant travel authorization to the US depends on their decision which is based on the applicant’s responses. Despite the simplicity of the system, many still have questions on the ESTA application. Therefore, following we present you 10 significant facts about The Electronic System for travel authorization.
1 The member countries of the ESTA program
The first thing you need to know is whether your country is a member of the program or not. If the answer is positive, you could fill the ESTA application with ease. The program countries reached 37 in 2015, including the UK, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Hungary, Slovakia, Iceland, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore, etc.
2 The ESTA questionnaire translated into your language
The official website of the U.S. Custom and Border Protection presents the ESTA application translated into 22 languages. Plus, other websites that present the service provide translations for some languages. So, you do not have to know English or find someone who knows it to help you. Only click on the language you want, and the website content will appear translated into it.
3 The questions asked in the questionnaire
The ESTA questionnaire comprises questions about the identity and visit of the applicant. It is divided into three parts:
The 1st part demands personal information about the identity, including the first, middle, and family names which should match those on the passport, names of the mother and father, the birth date and place, gender, marital status, and email address.
The 2nd section asks about the passport and planned visit: the nationality, postal address, telephone number, electronic or biometric passport number, the place, issue and expiry dates of the passport, the location of the airport you are traveling from. You are also asked if you have citizenships or held passports of other countries. The contact information of a trustworthy person, within or outside the US to contact in cases of emergency is also requires.
And finally, come inquiries about health and morality. It is quite essential for the decision that will be made; therefore, it demands clear answers on closed questions with simple yes or no. The third part of the application asks about the existence of any contagious illness or psychiatric issues, if the applicant takes narcotics, arrested or convicted of a crime, engaged in genocide, spying activities, or terrorism, if used immunity granted to him/her to escape judicial pursuit, exceeded the authorized visiting period during a previous visit. Besides, during the visit, there are inquiries about whether the applicant intends to engage in immoral activities, plans to search for work.
4 How does it take to receive the response?
The responses of the American authorities are sent via emails to the applicants within 48 hours, 72 hours as a maximum. So, you do not need to worry about applying long before your travel. However, keep in mind that if an error led to the refusal of your travel application, you are allowed to resubmit a new application ten days following the notification. Therefore, if you have a fixed departure date, it’s better to send the request two weeks before the travel date. Remains that you make sure of two things; that the application is validated by filling the form entirely and paying the administration fees, and that the Spam folder on your email is verified.
5 Yes, submitting the ESTA questionnaire is payable
The cost of submitting the ESTA application form changes between the different websites that provide the service. On the official website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the ESTA application fee is $14. The ESTA system is less expensive than the classic one, the visa; the fee of a visa application ranges from €130 and €260. Besides, the process of obtaining a travel authorization via visa is way slower than the ESTA; it could take weeks.
6 After the submission, no changes can be done
It’s a quite significant fact to know about filling the ESTA application. You can add and modify the information and answers freely as long as you have not paid the submission fees. Once you do, you can no longer edit the content of the application. Therefore, it is essential to take your time and fill the questionnaire carefully, then revise the answers before proceeding to the next step. Be quite attentive while entering your personal information, especially the passport number and email address. And keep in mind that to fix mistakes after submitting, you need to fill a new application with a new full payment.
7 The duration of the validity of ESTA authorization
The ESTA authorization stays valid for two years from the date when you obtained it provided that no changes occurred to your personal situation included in the application. You could take further trips, of the same conditions as the initial one, to the US during the two-year validity period.
8 A passport is needed
It’s true that the ESTA system relieves you from going for a visa. However, to fill the online application, you must have an electronic passport, called biometric passport too, to authenticate and secure your identity. And to complete the online ESTA application, the passport number is required. The e-passport is a traditional passport with a limited validation for the duration of the trip; it is equipped with an electronic microprocessor chip that comprises biometric information of the passport holder.
9 The ESTA program is entirely digital
Other than the passport, no further documents are needed. You don’t need to print the ESTA and take it with you when traveling. After the approval of your request, both the immigration services and travel company you are dealing with will be informed automatically that you are authorized to go to the U.S.A.
10 Reasons for the ESTA application refusal
When refuses applications, the US immigration authorities do not provide a reason for refusal in their sent email to the applicant. However, to save yourself the trouble and waste of time and money, check two aspects before sending an ESTA application. The first is to make sure you fulfill the primary required conditions for applying to an authorization to travel to the US through the ESTA program. These basics are: to be a resident of a member country, to have a biometric passport valid for the duration of the visit, not to exceed the length of the visit allowed, and to have a touristic aim of the travel, not to study or search for work.
The second aspect to check is whether the refusal is due to a sub-reason, including sending incorrect personal information that does not match that in the passport and having a police record of serious offenses or crimes. In case of the wrong information, you can reapply and fill a new application, correcting the mistakes, after ten days from the date of receipt of the reply.