International travelers are familiar with the concept of a visa. It is required to travel between certain countries and shows that you have been approved to travel by both your home country’s government and the government of the country you will be visiting.
The United States has a program with certain countries that allows citizens and qualifying nationals to travel without a visa. This visa waiver program is run by the US Department of Homeland Security and is quite straightforward.
If you live in a participating country, you can apply for the waiver through the ESTA visa waiver application. This application is available on the Department of Homeland Security’s website. It should only take about twenty minutes to complete the application and costs $14 USD.
You should put in your ESTA visa waiver application well before you intend to travel. This is because even if your visa waiver is denied, you can still move ahead with your travel plans. At that point, you will need to apply for a full visa, instead of a visa waiver, which takes longer.
Be certain you are filling out the application in full and with accuracy. If the agents running your application have to correct your application manually, it will take longer to approve it. This could interfere with your ability to travel as planned.
Check your eligibility for a visa waiver before spending the time and money to fill out the application. Your trip has to be for less than 90 days and can only be used for business, pleasure, or transit – you cannot get a visa waiver as an international student.
You also have to meet other travel requirements. For example, your travel has to be round-trip into and out of the United States. You cannot use a visa waiver to travel to adjacent territories permanently, unless you are already a resident of that territory. If you do not meet the requirements for the waiver, your application will be denied.