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When travelling to the USA, there’s a range of rules that travelers who need visas have to follow before even arriving. Things are easier for travelers who can visit the U.S under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) through ESTA. Those who want to travel to the U.S under VWP through ESTA still have to pass the security requirements and will also have to pay the required administrative fee. Unfortunately for now, only a select number of countries have been approved to have its citizens and nationals eligible for the ESTA application. The advantage of ESTA is that it’s a process done completely online, so there’s no need to wait at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and there’s no need for any forms to be printed out. In a way, ESTA helps to save both time and money.
What is ESTA?
As of January 12, 2009, all travelers coming to the U.S under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have an approved ESTA Travel Authorization on hand. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, also known as ESTA, is an online system set up by the United States government. ESTA has been created to help DHS (Department of Homeland Security) know about the travelers from the Visa Waiver countries before they reach U.S soil. Even though travelers might find themselves eligible to enter the USA, it doesn’t mean that their entry to the U.S is confirmed, as it's under the control of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers as soon as the travelers touch down on U.S soil. Applications to the ESTA may be sent in any time before the traveler plans to travel. It is better to send ESTA applications before making travel plans or before purchasing travel tickets.
Visa Waiver Program
For a lot of countries, there’s a range of procedures travelers have to go through before being able to set foot in the USA. For these travelers, the range of procedures is only to secure them a visa to the United States of America. But there are travelers from several countries out there that don’t need to go through that much trouble because they don’t even need a visa to go to the U.S. If approved, successful applicants can enter the United States of America for tourism or business purposes and that too, for up to 90 days without a visa. For these countries and their people, the advantage of the Visa Waiver Program is that they are able to travel to the United States without having to wait too long for a visa, as they don’t need one. For now, 37 countries are on the Visa Waiver Program list. Barring Canada, citizens of all the other countries have to apply for a U.S. visa long before they plan their trip to the U.S.
Passport on Hand
The most important factor when it comes to travelling to another country is to have a valid passport on hand. The same rule applies to those registering for ESTA. Of course, a valid passport means having a real passport with an expiration date far from when the travelers intend to head out. The passport has to be valid for at least six months after their stay in the U.S. will end.
Valid Credit Card
The Electronic System For Travel Authorization to the U.S works if travelers have a valid and working credit card when applying online. Since it’s an online application, applicants will have to pay by credit card and ESTA accepts MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club).
List of Countries under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)