What ESTA Has To Do With Your USA Trip
ESTA stands for the name given to the automated data system launched by the Department of Homeland Security in 2008 and is now being used to regulate the entry of visitors in America, determining whether they are eligible and do not threaten law enforcement nor security under the Visa Waiver Program.
Being approved by ESTA gives you travel authorization to ride a plane and travel to America under the Visa Waiver Program. You need not worry about submitting an application as early as possible, as it is recommended by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that one must submit the application 72 hours prior to your planned U.S. trip, but you can do so any time before boarding as a response is sent back to you usually within seconds of your submission. Private carriers must be a signatory VWP carrier and you can click here for more on this aspect.
What you have to know about ESTA is that it is not a visa. It cannot replace a U.S. visa as required by law. If you have your own U.S. visa, then you will not need an ESTA. But they are similar in the sense that neither of them, even though approved and valid, will not promise you admission to America.
ESTA is not something you can get around, as it has been mandatory since the twelfth of January 2009 and continues to be mandatory up to this day. It is a requirement for all applicants of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to fill up the blue Customs declaration form the moment they arrive in the United States regardless of being authorized or not by ESTA, but are not anymore required to fill up that I-94W green card.
One of the major benefits of obtaining an approved ESTA is its length of validity which is two whole years, or that is, until your passport expires – whichever of these may come first – and will render the traveler legible for multiple different occasions of traveling to the United States without the need to re-apply for a second ESTA.
Although there is no set time requirement for how long you must wait before you can visit the country again, you need to leave a considerable amount of time between each trip so as not to alert the CBP Officer and make an impression that you are trying to live in the United States, and also remember that you may only stay for a maximum of 90 days with each trip so make it worth your while!
For those travelers with approved ESTA applications but with passports that expire in a time below two years, they will be given an ESTA that is valid only up until the expiration date of the passport.
Click here for a more elaborate description of all of the requirements of an ESTA.