Who needs an ESTA visa, and when
Nationals of the US VWP (Visa Waiver Program) can visit the US with a visit visa or an ESTA, Electronic System for Travel Authorization. While a visa can be applied for via their nearest US embassy or consulate, an ESTA can be obtained online via a formal virtual ESTA application. It also takes less time and is more convenient than obtaining a visa.
If you are wondering whether you can also avail of this facility of traveling to the US via ESTA, here is a brief guide to help you assess whether you qualify for ESTA and when you can avail this facility.
Who is qualified
The first requirement of eligibility for ESTA is that you must be a resident of one of the 40 countries on the US Visa Waiver Program. This program has been designed to make the process of entry into the US more secure yet convenient for individuals from these countries.
Hence residents of countries participating in visa-free countries can apply for an ESTA visa.
When do I need an ESTA
Your eligibility for an ESTA visa is contingent on a few conditions. You need an ESTA if your travel duration for the US is 90 days or less. If you plan to stay in the country for more than three months, you must apply for a visit visa, B1 or B2, for business or tourism, respectively.
Similarly, you will need ESTA if your purpose of travel is tourism or business. You will also need to apply for one if you want to transit via the US. If you want to visit for any other purpose, you cannot apply for ESTA and will need a regular visa that you can obtain via the appropriate channel.
Thus if you plan to enter the US via land, air, or sea, have a trip of 90 or fewer days planned, and want to go for business, pleasure, or transit, you need an ESTA.
If you are wondering when to apply, you must do so ahead of your planned travel day at least three days in advance so that the approval arrives in time. Once your ESTA is approved, it is valid for two years, and you can travel to and from the US multiple times within this time frame. However, once it expires, you will need to reapply. You may also need to reapply for ESTA if your passport expires, even if your ESTA is still valid. So, ensure your passport has sufficient time remaining when applying for ESTA.