If you belong to a country approved under the Visa Waiver Program or VWP, you do not need to get a visa to travel to the US for tourism or business purposes. All you need is an ESTA which is easier to obtain than a VISA. But before you apply for an ESTA (Esta visum), here are a few things to know:
- Passport requirement
In order to get an ESTA, you will need an e-passport from a VWP-approved country. The e-passport includes a chip that contains biometric data that is used for the identification of the person. People without an e-passport will need a visa to travel to the US even if they are from VWP countries. If you are traveling as a family, all members must have their passports and this includes children and even infants.
- Passport validity
To apply for an ESTA, you should have a passport that expires at least 6 months after the date you intend to leave the US.
- Stay period
A person with an approved ESTA can stay in the US for 90 days at a stretch. You can re-enter the US at a later period but you can extend each stay beyond 90 days.
- Approval time
ESTA is an automated process. As such, you can expect your ESTA approval (ESTA aanvraag) within a few minutes after the correct submission of the form. In certain cases, however, manual approval may be needed and that may take up to 72 hours.
- Application deadline
It is suggested that anyone planning to visit the US under the VWP should apply for an ESTA as earlier as possible. However, to ensure that you have an approved ESTA before boarding your carrier to the US, applications must be submitted 72 hours before boarding.
- Validity period
An approved ESTA is valid only for 2 years from the date of approval. If the ESTA expires, you will have to re-apply for one all over again.
- Early expiry
In some cases, the ESTA may expire before a period of 2 years. This includes situations like expiry of your passport, revoking of the ESTA by the authorities, etc. Your ESTA will also expire if you change your name and gender, change your citizenship, or obtain a new passport. Before travel, check whether your ESTA is still valid.
ESTA applies to citizens from VWP countries except in a few cases like:
- Individuals arrested for a criminal felony, even if charges have not been established.
- Individuals with a criminal record, even if they have been pardoned.
- Individuals with communicable diseases like syphilis, active tuberculosis, infectious leprosy, gonorrhea, chancroid, HIV, viral hemorrhagic fevers, etc.
- Individuals who have earlier been deported from the US.
- Individuals who have unlawfully extended their stay in the US under the VWP.
- Individuals who also hold citizenship of countries like Iraq, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, and Syria.
- Individuals who have traveled on stayed in Iraq, Iran, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, or North Korea on or after March 1, 2011.
Note – Individuals who have been to the above-mentioned countries for military or diplomatic purposes on behalf of a VWP approved country will be exempted from the ESTA exclusion. If ESTA (ESTA aanvraag) is denied, such individuals may contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.