June 1, 2021

Shiraz Kahn

Questions answered about the United States’ ESTA

Electronic System For Travel Authorization (ESTA) came into existence when “Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007” (9/11 Act) amended Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), and directed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct a digital system that automates the process to gain permission to travel in the U.S for a short time.

Here is a handy guide that answers all the queries about how and what the process is for ESTA.

What is the difference between ESTA and a visa?

Gaining a visa is a time-consuming and tedious process; it is not readily available in emergency cases, whereas ESTA is a convenient online process and doesn’t involve visiting an embassy.

It is not an alternative to a visa but a traveling license with different considerations with validity for up to two years.

What is the purpose of ESTA?

ESTA travel authorisation to visit the United States is a cybernetic approach to immigration management. The foremost objective of it is to reduce the travel barriers and allow more business and traveling activities to foster the economy of the nation.

But, small-time travelers may also pose serious legal risks and insurgency to the country.  Therefore, ESTA ensures strict scrutiny of all visitors to maintain peace at the borderlines and the internal security of the nation.

What are the eligibility criteria of ESTA?

1. ESTA was promulgated under the Visa Waiver Program, which encompasses 37 countries only. Thus, only individuals of 37 signatory nations can apply for it.

2. Applicants should not have a visitor’s visa.

3. Only short travel stays of 90 days to three months in one stretch are allowed.

In the case of business trips, only those individuals are allowed who represent the company established in the home nation. You cannot use ESTA for business internships, short courses, resident programs in an American organization,

1. Applicants should have a valid passport issued by the native nation.

2. He/she should be competent with all inspections and investigations did by the customs department.

3. A return ticket is mandatory before entering the American territory

How to apply for ESTA?

It’s a simple procedure. Go online and visit an authentic website that offers ESTA applications. In the first half, you will be asked to fill in your sociodemographic details. The second half enquires about the reason for travel, your health, and your legal status. A passport should be kept handy while applying.

This is followed by the payment window of $14, which is transferred to the American government as processing and transfer charges. Credit, debit cards on online payment accounts are accepted.

How is data privacy maintained in ESTA?

Strict guidelines have been set out to protect individual privacy. DHS holds the information provided in ESTA for a maximum of two years. After the expiry of ESTA, the data is archived for 12 years, and its reach is limited in the repository.

DHS will always have access to the information and the authority to revive it. Although data is kept confidential to DHS only, the information can be shared with the defense or legal departments in cases of infringement of national security and legal investigations.