If you are a citizen of a country outside the United States and want to visit the U.S. you must first determine if your country is a member of the Visa Waiver program. If it is, then it may be very simple for you to gain entry. Residents or citizens of countries who partake in the Visa Waiver program just need to apply for ESTA at least three days before they depart their country. The application may be completed and submitted online and once approved, the traveler only needs their e-passport to enter the United States. More on ESTA Visum.
An ESTA visum provides entrance to the U.S. for up to two years or until the expiration date on the visitor’s passport. The visit can last up to 90 days and the ESTA is good for multiple visits. As of April 2016, all visitors with an ESTA must have an electronic passport. If they do not, then the visitor must apply for a regular U.S. visa.
If a traveler wants to stay longer than 90 days, they must apply for either a tourist or B2 visa or a business or B1 visa. These allow a longer stay in the country.
The U.S. State Department recommends visitors apply for ESTA as soon as they begin making travel plans to the United States. It is a good idea to apply and get approved before purchasing airline or cruise tickets.
When completing the ESTA application, the visitor supplies certain biographic information that the U.S. government uses to determine if they qualify to enter the country.
Canadian or Mexican visitors do not need ESTA if they are arriving by land from their country. Anyone arriving without an ESTA or an official visa can be turned away at the departure airport. It is sometimes possible for visitors to apply and get approved for an ESTA at the airport, but it is best to have this in hand before arriving for check in.
The information supplied during the ESTA application is used by U.S. government officials to pre-screen all travelers. It costs $14 to apply for ESTA and airlines are required to ask for proof of an approved ESTA before they check in travelers to the United States.
Thirty-eight countries participate in the Visa Waiver program. Visitors with an approved ESTA visum may stay for up to 90 days. The ESTA is required if a visitor is arriving by cruise ship or by air.