ESTA is a travel authorization required before booking a ticket to USA, if you are planning to visit USA by air or ship. Some people think that ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is equivalent to VISA. This is, however, not true.
You need to have your ESTA approved, before booking your tickets to USA. If you do not have Electronic System for Travel Authorization, you will not be issued air ticket or a ship ticket. In case, any such service provider, issues a ticket to a person who does not have ESTA, then it will have to pay heavy fines.
STA, once approved, is valid for next 2 years. If you want to use it for longer duration, you may get it renewed after 2 years.
ESTA is required for visitors who are travelling to US via airplane or ship. Those travelling through land do not require ESTA. There are few countries which are joined with USA under VISA Waiver Program. The citizens of these countries do not need ESTA, if they are visiting USA for less than 90 days. However, if they are planning to stay in US for more than 90 days, them they will have to get ESTA authorization approved. Those countries are as follows:
|Andorra||Finland||Latvia||Republic of Malta|
|Czech Republic||Ireland||New Zealand||Sweden|
If you are planning to visit USA, then you must apply for ESTA. Applying for ESTA is a simple online process. This ESTA will be issued to you by US Embassy in your country. It is just an authorization which is necessary before booking a flight ticket or a ship ticket to US.
This process was introduced by US government on 12th January, 2009. This is very helpful for US authorities to verify and validate the VISA and identity of people who are planning to visit USA. Based on that verification, US officials will decide if that person should be allowed to enter US. That is why, having an ESTA should not be considered as a permission to enter USA. It is completely up to discretion of airport official to allow you to enter US or not. ESTA only allows you to board a flight or ship to US.
This step was taken to keep a check on people visiting US, in order to reduce chances of any anti-national activities, such as terrorism.
So, if you are planning to visit USA, you must apply for ESTA, well in time before booking a ticket to US. You must apply for ESTA if you satisfy any of the criteria:
- You are visiting US by air or by ship
- You are from the countries which are tied up with USA under VISA Waiver Program and your visit is of more than 90 days.
You must first get ESTA approved and then you should go for booking your tickets. Tickets will not be valid if ESTA is not approved.