page contents

4 common questions about the ESTA VWP

4 common questions about the ESTA VWP

There are many people who believe that you always need a visa in order to visit the USA, whether for a business trip, a medical procedure, or a holiday. However, for citizens and residents of 38 countries that are part of a visa waiver program with the USA, you only need an ESTA.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is fantastic because it costs a lot less than a visa, takes less time to arrange, and you’ll get an answer much faster. The problem is that many people don’t know if it’s right for them. That’s why we’re going to answer your four most-common questions about the ESTA right now.

Do I need a visa for the USA?

For most people from visa waiver countries, planning to stay less than 90 days, the answer is no. This includes those visiting for a holiday, short-term medical treatments, short educational courses, business trips, and those enjoying a layover before flying to their vacation destination.

However, you will need a visa if you plan to:

  • Work for a US company
  • Take a mid- or long-term course, like undertaking a degree
  • Emigrate
  • Apply for American citizenship
  • Get married

How long does an ESTA last for?

An ESTA is valid for two years from the time it is granted or until your passport expires, whichever is sooner. However, you can only stay in the USA for up to 90 days at a time during that period. Let’s look at that 90-day limit more closely.

One important thing to remember when booking your flights is that three calendar months can easily be more than 90 days, so work it out by counting up the days. If you do make a mistake, you have to rearrange one of your flights so that you do not exceed the timeframe.

If for some reason, you can’t change your flight, you will still be allowed home, but you might face extra scrutiny the next time you go to the USA.

How long does filling out an ESTA application take?

Whether time is of the essence or you just have better things to do than fill in a government form, you’re in luck. The ESTA application process is entirely online and only takes about 10-15 minutes to complete. All you need is your passport and your method of payment.

How long does it take to get an ESTA?

Okay, now that you’ve filled in an ESTA application, you want to know how long it will be until it’s approved. Well, you should have your response emailed to you within a day, but most often it only takes an hour.

Over 97% of ESTA applications are approved, but some people will receive a response of Authorization Pending or Travel Not Approved. These outcomes are rare, but none are a real cause for concern.

If you get the former, it just means that your application is being reviewed by an actual person and you’ll likely be approved soon. If you get the latter, you may still be allowed to travel to the USA, but you’ll have to apply for a USA visa at the embassy.

Hopefully, this article has answered all your burning questions about the ESTA and shown you how it could be the perfect option for you.