With an aim to clear up the confusion and common misconceptions regarding ESTA or Electronic System for Traveling Authorization, we have garnered a few things you may want to know about the process and how it works.
If you reside in a country that’s under the Visa Waiver Program, you can actually travel to the United States without the need to apply for a visa. However, despite the application being a simple and straightforward process, many individuals are uncertain exactly how the VWP works and what the ESTA really is.
ESTA is not a Visa
This is perhaps one of the most common misconceptions. Once you are approved to travel to the United States with an ESTA, you’re actually being allowed to travel to the country without the need for a visa. That’s because, due to the personal details and information you have provided, you’ve passed the automatic vetting process and have been approved to visit the United States. A visa is a different form of authorization, which entails a long process. ESTA applications are done online and their confirmation is almost immediate. A visa can take a number of weeks to finalize.
ESTA allows you To Stay in The US for up to 3 Months
The 3-month period of your ESTA begins from the time you arrive in the country. That means you’re not allowed to outstay this period, as it’s likely to jeopardize the ability to re-enter the US in the future. It’s also worth noting that if you want to travel neighboring countries such as Mexico and Canada, this 3-month clock keeps ticking. This is usually set in place to avoid travelers from resetting this period by simply border hopping. Also, keep in mind that if it appears as if you’re repeatedly returning to the country with ESTA for 3 month periods with little time in between, it’s likely to raise a flag. A visa is required if you want to stay more than 90-days in the United States.
ESTA is Valid for 2 Years
Unlike Visas, ESTAs are only valid for 2 years. This period starts on the day you get your approval, which is usually the same day you make your application. The only exception is if your passport expiry period is before this 2-year period. As such, it’s usually a good idea to ensure that your passport has at least 2 years left when applying for ESTA. Also, ESTA can’t be extended while in the US, but this would not be necessary in any case. As long as your electronic system for authorization is valid on the day you arrive in the country, it doesn’t matter if it has expired by the time you leave. Regardless, you still have to adhere to the 90-day clock of the ESTA.