Planning a trip to the United States takes a lot of work and you need to make sure that you have all of your paperwork ready to go before you leave on your trip. One essential thing that you are going to have to have before you leave is your ESTA. Without your ESTA you are not going to be able to take your trip and you won’t be able to get on your flight, so it is crucial that you take care of this essential electronic travel authorization right away.
The ESTA doesn’t take long to apply for and most people get approved for it right away. The questionnaire only takes a few minutes to fill out and once you fill it out you are going to get an approval in just a few minutes. Most people are going to get approved right away, but sometimes it takes longer because the application has to go through a manual review.
Never wait until the night before your flight to apply for your ESTA because if your application gets delayed for a day or two, you will not be able to board your flight. Give yourself at least three days for the ESTA to be approved and if you really want to play it safe you can apply for it at least a week before your trip. Don’t take any chances because you don’t want to miss your flight.
The ESTA is going to be good for two years, or as long as your passport is valid. You can travel to the United States as often as you want as long as your trips are under 90 days. The trips can be for work or they can be for pleasure. The ESTA is going to save you time and you will get into the country faster.
The ESTA is an electronic authorisation process that the United States government requires people to go through before they can travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Programme. The application form is quite short and simple, and it is simply a form of identity verification. When it was first introduced, it was free to apply for, but as of September 8th 2010, the U.S. government has introduced a $14 fee for the authorisation. This fee funds the Corporation for Travel Promotion, and also covers the CBP’s administrative costs.
The ESTA is valid for two years, and if you apply for it through the official website, then all you will need to pay is the $14 fee. There are some third party websites which offer application services and charge higher fees, but these are not official services, and there is no benefit to using them. Indeed, it is not a good idea to apply for an ESTA using one of those services, for several reasons:
1) Wasted Money
The third party services do not do anything beyond take your details and then fill out the form for you. They cannot get your authorisation approved any more quickly, and they cannot offer you any additional support if things go wrong.
2) Slower Process
By using a third party service, you slow the process down because you are giving your details to someone else who needs to process them, and if there is an issue, then you have added an extra step in the chain to deal with it. The process would go much more quickly if you simply filled out the official form yourself.
3) Risk of Identity Theft
By giving your details to a third party, you run the risk of identity theft. The third party sites are not regulated by the government. Some of them truly are just attempting to make money by being an intermediary to ‘support’ people who are nervous about filling out th application form, but some may be collecting people’s details for less respectable purposes. You have no way of knowing who will see the data or how it will be handled.
The official application form carries a $14 fee, and in most cases approval comes through quite quickly. Apply early so that you can get help if there are issues, and enjoy the peace of mind of knowing you are clear to travel.