The definition of ESTA
ESTA is the acronym for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an electronic American travel authorization that replaces, under certain conditions, the application and obtaining of a visa. It is done online and must be accompanied by an electronic or biometric passport. This inexpensive application allows access to board a plane or ship bound for the United States and its detached states such as Hawaii or Alaska.
The ESTA travel authorization is part of the Visa Waiver Program. This program has been duplicated in other countries around the world, for example: an eTA Canada facilitates trade and migration flows in Canada. Canada allows certain trusted and high security countries to benefit from a visa exemption for their nationals while ensuring internal security.
How do I get the ESTA?
Obtaining the ESTA is done online. The applicant must have a valid electronic or biometric passport and answer a series of questions on the ESTA form. Once an ESTA authorization has been obtained, it is valid for two years. It is possible to use it several times during this period. If the passport expires, the ESTA will be valid until the passport’s expiration date.
ESTA and access to the territory
Obtaining ESTA authorization does not guarantee access to the United States. This authorization only allows you to present yourself at the American border. The ESTA form must be filled out at least 72 hours before departure. Under certain conditions, it replaces the US visa application. It is at the time of the control of the American customs that will be granted or not the access to the American territory.
An ESTA can replace a visa only in certain cases. ESTA can replace :
- A transit visa;
- The B2 tourist visa or a B1 business visa for a stay of less than 90 consecutive days;
- Visas for specific trips such as au pair or diplomatic stays require a special visa that requires an appointment at the US Embassy.