What is an ESTA?
Before setting out on a USA self drive holiday, make sure you have all the paperwork you need for entering the country.
U.S. Customs officials are not known for being the most friendly bunch, and it's not just a myth.
To ensure that your entry into the country goes as smoothly as possible, make sure each traveller has a valid ESTA authorization.
What is an ESTA?
ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is a form that must be completed online before travelling to the United States.
It provides authorization to enter the United States under the VWP (Visa Waiver Program).
Travellers from Schengen countries as well as Ireland, Australia and New Zealand must obtain ESTA authorization before boarding their flight to the U.S.
Otherwise, it is highly likely that they will be refused entry at the American border.
How do I obtain ESTA authorization?
The only way to obtain ESTA authorization is on the official website, at the following link: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/
Some other websites offer the service but none of them are recognized by the U.S. Government. I strongly recommend using the official site mentioned above.
The fee for application is $21 per person, which must be paid online by credit card.
You must apply no later than 72 hours prior to entry into the U.S. I suggest you do it as soon as you start planning your trip.
When filling out the form, be sure to enter your name exactly as it appears in your passport.
You should also double-check that you have entered your alphanumeric passport number correctly.
Since 2012, it is possible to make grouped ESTA applications and submit a single payment.
Print your ESTA and bring it with you on your trip to the United States.
An ESTA is valid for 2 years or until your passport expires (whichever comes first).
If you have already had an ESTA and it has expired, you must submit a new application on line, and pay the fee of $14.
Other procedures for entering the U.S.
ESTA authorization is not the only requirement for entering the U.S.
You will also need to:
- Have a valid biometric passport (e-passport) (regardless of the date of issue).
- Have a round-trip plane ticket or a cruise ticket (proving your exit from U.S. territory, regardless of the port of entry and exit).
- Plan to stay for 90 days or less (the stay cannot be extended once you're there).
- Present proof of solvency (credit card, traveller's cheques, etc.)
If you have any questions or in case of doubt, I strongly suggest contacting the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.
- U.S embassies and consulates in the United Kingdom: https://uk.usembassy.gov/
- U.S embassies and consulates in Australia: https://au.usembassy.gov/
Please note that the information provided above is subject to change without notice.
Now all that's left is to wish you a great trip!