I almost made the mistake of flying to the US without a valid ESTA visa waiver. Make sure this doesn't happen to do you and do your research first.
Travelling to the USA is not as straightforward as you might think after discussing plans with a travel agency. There are many things that can go wrong due to the complicated visa system in place. One of them is in relation to ESTA, which is an automated system that is determining visitor eligibility when travelling to the US through VWP (Visa Waiver Program). ESTA will not guarantee that you can be admitted in the country so do not instantly dream about visiting Manhattan. This happens only when you arrive.
You need to get an ESTA visa USA as it is mandatory when you want to visit, ever since the year 2010. The big problem is that it was not properly promoted and there are still so many travellers that end up in the US, at the airport, lacking the necessary documentation.
When Do You Need ESTA?
If you want to travel to the USA for business or as a tourist for a maximum of 3 months you need ESTA or it is impossible to get on a flight. This is true even if you just go through the US as transit. Even babies that do not have plane tickets need ESTA. The only situation when authorization is not necessary is when you enter the country via land from Canada or Mexico.
ESTA application is possible online. You need to fill out a specific form featuring various personal details ranging from travel details to possible criminal convictions. While when it first appeared this was free, ESTA now involves a charge of $14, which you can pay through a valid credit/debit card. If you believe that you will have problems being accepted, it is recommended to use the services of a company that can help you with the application process. You will pay more but you can be sure that mistakes are not going to be made.
Confirmation normally appears instantly but it is possible that this would be delayed. That is why you should submit your application at least 3 days before you plan to travel. The confirmation number received should be kept and whenever possible, the entire conformation page should be printed out.
If you believe that there are some problems that could appear, it is a very good idea to apply way ahead of time. That is because when ESTA application is denied you can still enter the country in various circumstances. The Travel Not Authorized status simply means that you cannot go to the USA through Visa Waiver Program, normally simply because nationality or some previous convictions.
Other Facts Of Interest About ESTA
ESTA will be valid for 2 years if not revoked or until the passport will expire. Reapplying is needed before those 2 years are over or when gender or names are changed. The same applies for a citizenship change or when answers on the form change.
Keep in mind that when application number is lost and information updates are needed, you have to visit the ESTA web page and check for the appropriate category. Filling in your first name, last name, passport number and date of birth gives you your application number if already approved.