The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA)
A document required for short stays in the USA
You live in an OECD country and plan to visit the United States for business or tourism ?
Thus you will need a travel authorisation application called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). Created in 2009, it is required for citizens of partner countries such as France, Ireland, the UK, Belgium, Italy or Holland, that stay in the United States up to 90 days, including for a transit.
When travelling by airplane or by any other mean to the USA, it is the responsibility of the traveler to secure an ESTA authorisation prior to departure. The U.S. authorities may deny passage to travellers that are not able to present a valid ESTA authorisation or a visa prior to departure.
An electronic document
Delivered by the American government, an ESTA allows to avoid the visa application procedure and can be obtained via an online application form, which is available in several languages. Applicants receive the answer by email. Some companies can help applicants fill their form and undertake the procedures so that it is processed within a few days or less. However, it should be completed at least a few weeks before the departure date. If granted, the travel authorisation is valid during two years, with an unlimited number of trips to the United States.
The ESTA online application form may take some time to fill, but it is very simple in comparaison to the visa application procedure.
Required conditions for obtaining an ESTA
Several specific conditions are required to obtain an ESTA, especially the length of the stay, which can not be larger than 90 days. For more information, see this article about the validity period of an ESTA. For longer stays, a long stay visa is required. The ESTA can be used during a period of two years, as long one's personal information has remained unchanged. On the contrary, it is imperative to update the information on the ESTA document.
How much does it cost?
The administrative cost of an ESTA application iis $14 when it is realized in the official websites. If you choose to use a specialized service, it generally costs between $30 and $80. Those companies help and advise the applicant, so that the probability of receiving a positive answer is higher.