The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, conveniently known as ESTA, is an automated system in the US that allows individuals to enter the country without a visa under the United States VWP (Visa Waiver Program). If you are interested in applying for this permit, here are five quick facts that will help you along the way.
You can apply for ESTA based on your travel duration and purpose.
Not all citizens of VWP countries are eligible for ESTA. You can only apply if you currently do not hold a valid visitor visa for the US. Moreover, if you want to apply for ESTA, your purpose of travel to the US should be business or pleasure only. If you are seeking transit via the USA, you will also need ESTA. Also, ESTA lets you to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 days. If you want to travel for a longer duration, you will need a visitor visa.
You cannot apply for ESTA without a valid electronic passport
Before applying for ESTA, you must ensure that your passport is valid. The usual requirement is that the passport must be valid for at least six months from the date you arrive in the US. Moreover, your passport should be electronic. E-passports have an electronic chip that contains the biometric data of the passport holder.
You must apply at least 72 hours before your travel date.
It is ideally recommended to apply for ESTA a minimum of 72 hours before your intended travel date. Usually, a confirmation email is sent in 24 hours, but it may take longer for the approval to come through, sometimes up to three days. Hence it is better to avoid last-minute inconvenience and apply in advance. You can even apply for ESTA weeks or months before your travel date.
Once you submit your application, you cannot change your details
Other than your point of contact in the US (address and email), you cannot change anything on your ESTA application once you submit it. If you have made an erroneous submission or there is a change in some information, for instance, your name, gender, address in the country of residence, etc., you will need to reapply.
You cannot renew your ESTA
An ESTA is valid for two years from the date it is formally approved. You can travel multiple times within this period, but once your ESTA expires, you cannot renew or extend it. You will have to reapply following the same procedure as before.
If your ESTA expires while in the US, you do not need to be concerned as long as it was valid when you arrived. You will, however, need a new ESTA before your next visit. Moreover, you will need to reapply if your passport expires or if any information provided in the previous application changes.