If you’re planning on travelling to the United States and you come from one of the 38 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) you will need to go through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This is basically a computerized process that determines U.S. visitors’ eligibility, when the travellers are from VWP countries.
Signing up for this type of travel authorization was first available as an option in August 2008, after which it became compulsory in January 12, 2009.As of April 1 2016 an e-passport has also needed to participate in the VWP.
When to apply for your E.S.T.A
To avoid disappointment, and disruptions to your travel plans, it is best to submit your ESTA application as early as possible, even before buying your flight tickets. In fact, it’s ideal if you do it as soon as you start your travel planning.
However, it isn’t always possible to plan ahead, and emergency and last-minute travel is a reality. Luckily,the DHS accommodates late applications. In the majority of cases, a traveller’s eligibility is determined instantly on the ESTA website, see (www.esta-visa.ie) after his or her application is successfully submitted online. You should aim to leave at least 72 hours wherever possible.
Your E.S.T.A approval
Your ESTA approval is valid for two years (one year for Greece), or up until the expiration date of your passport, depending on which of the two happens first. During theperiod of validity, you are allowed to travel multiple times to the U.S. without having to submit extra ESTA applications.It is, however, important to note that if you’re authorized through ESTA, that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re admissible to the U.S. Admissibility falls under the responsibility of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and it is determined when the travellers arrive in the country. They can refuse you if they deem it necessary to preserve the security of the US.
VWP travellers needn’t carry a paper printout of said approval with them to the airport, as their ESTA status is communicated to the carriers via DHS. However, the DHS recommends that applicants print out their ESTA response as a means ofrecording their ESTA application number. Thus, carrying your print out in your wallet, even though unnecessary, won’t hurt. If you forget your application number you can retrieve the information you need via the ESTA website. All you need to do is enter your name, date of birth, passport number and passport issuing country in the system.
The ESTA application carries a fee of $14. This toll includes both the processing charge and the authorization cost. The former tariff, which amounts to $4, applies to anyone requesting the travel authorization and the applicants are charged upon submission of the application. The remaining $10 authorization fee is only charged to the applicants’ credit card if their application gets approved. If the applicant is denied travel authorization, he or she will only be charged the $4 processing fee and must then resort to applying for a visa through the normal channels to be able to travel to the U.S.
Accepted payment methods
The only way you can pay for your ESTA applications is via credit or debit card; with the ESTA system accepting only MasterCard, American Express, Discover, VISA, JCB Card and Diners Club. However, it’s quite acceptable for a family member, friend or even your travel agent to settle the balance for your application or for a group application, because the name of the traveller doesn’t need to match the name on the credit or debit card. Submission for processing depends on payment, so until the payment information is obtained, applications won’t be sent to start the processing stage.