US citizens are now able to travel to over 190 countries without having to apply for any additional visas, but there is one country that you can’t visit unless you have an ESTA. What is it and how do I get it?
The ESTA was created in 2008 as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows citizens from 38 countries to enter the US without obtaining a separate visa. The VWP has been in place since 2001, however, its use was expanded when President Obama signed into law the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) on June 27th, 2010.
The WHTI aims to facilitate international travel by US citizens by offering them a simple way to travel to Canada and Mexico. It also makes it easier to board a plane within the continental United States.
While the WHTI was passed with bipartisan support after 9/11, the program’s success hinges on two factors. First, the US government has to be able to screen travelers to make sure they don’t pose a threat to national security. Second, the system has to be easy to use so people will actually fill out the form if asked to do so.
The ESTA replaces the old I-94W Form and is used for all visits to Canada and Mexico. You can only obtain an ESTA if your travel plans will take you outside of the US. If you intend to stay in the US for more than six months, then you need to apply for both an ESTA and a B1/B2 visitor’s visa.
If you plan to travel to Canada or Mexico and stay less than 90 days, then you can simply purchase an ESTA at a location where you’re planning to stop before you leave the US.
You may think that getting an ESTA would be similar to filling out a standard application for a tourist visa, but it isn’t. There are a few differences.
First, the ESTA application asks about criminal convictions; whether you have ever had your passport or driver’s license revoked or denied, or if you’ve ever been arrested. These questions are asked in order to determine if you’re a risk to public safety.
Second, the ESTA application requires fingerprints. This is because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) believes that there is something special about certain people who are traveling overseas and that their identities should be checked against records maintained by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Third, the ESTA application asks for contact information such as email addresses and phone numbers, which is required when DHS receives a request for an investigation. It also asks for the names of any other individuals who will accompany you on your trip.
Fourth, the ESTA application will ask for your full name, date of birth, gender, occupation, address, social security number, citizenship status, alien registration number, and the type of nonimmigrant status you currently hold.
Fifth, the ESTA visa application will ask for details regarding your travel plans including the cities you will be visiting, the dates you will be leaving the US, and the length of your stay in each city. In addition, you’ll need to provide your itinerary in detail.
Sixth, the ESTA application will require you to submit copies of your credit card, bank account, and insurance identification card along with a detailed explanation of why they are needed for your travel.
Finally, the ESTA application requires you to answer a series of questions about your activities while in the US, such as whether you have worked for pay, attended schools or universities, or had access to classified material.
If the person will clear regarding the difference between the esta visa and the tourist visa then he can take the final decision easily. Mostly people plan to take the esta visa service if they are planning to go to the US for the extended period. The main focus of the people is to reach the height and achieve the returns.
All of these requirements and others are designed to ensure that applicants aren’t trying to avoid detection by immigration authorities while travelling abroad.
There are some other things you should know about the ESTA. If you plan to travel to Mexico or Canada, you must have an ESTA, although you don’t necessarily need it if you plan to return to the US within six months.
However, if you plan to travel to another country while staying in the US for more than six months, then you must have both an ESTA and a B1/B2 visitor’s visa. Your ESTA will expire once your time in the US exceeds six months. A valid ESTA does not guarantee entry into the US. Once you arrive at the port of entry, you must still present yourself to immigration officials.
Also, if you get delayed or decide to change your travel plans, you will have to wait until the next available ESTA window opens before you can travel.
Finally, if either you or someone else in your party commits a crime while in the US, even if it’s minor, then you could face serious consequences including deportation, denial of reentry into the US for up to 10 years, and even prosecution under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
So what happens if you forget to get an ESTA? Can you just go ahead and cross the border anyway? Yes and no. Border agents won’t let you pass through without proof that you have an ESTA. However, if you don’t have your ESTA documentation with you, then you can go ahead and cross the border anyway provided you don’t commit a crime or violate any laws during your trip.
In fact, you can cross the border without showing proof of an ESTA if you have a current B1/B2 visitor’s visa. You’ll need to show this document upon arrival, but you don’t need to carry it with you.
There are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you were issued a B1/B2 visitor’s visa for the purpose of attending a religious ceremony or training, you’ll need to keep it with you at all times.