ESTA, the Secret to Traveling to the US Without a Visa

Traveling to the USA with ESTA, all you need to know

So let’s get a few things straight. You’ve decided that you want to travel to the United States of America. Check. You’ve realized there is a specific destination you want to go to. Check. You’ve booked your flights. Check. You’ve applied for your ESTA. Huh?

Now you may be thinking “Excuse me?”. What’s an ESTA? Glad you’ve asked. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. Cool. But “What is ESTA for and who is ESTA for?” Okay, now you’re asking the right questions.

The ESTA is an electronic resource that was created for citizens of 38 countries to travel to the US without a visa. Those citizens eligible for ESTA can travel under the visa waiver program.

What are the benefits of using ESTA?

Unlike a visa, ESTA’s only cost $14. A visa usually costs 5x more than that. Moreover, you have to consider the process for applying for an ESTA and for a visa. With the ESTA application, you literally complete one online application form, which takes around 30 minutes to complete.

A few minutes after completion, you should receive a notification update to inform if your ESTA has been approved or not. You can literally have a cuppa in your arm-chair whilst completing the ESTA application.

Now compare that whole process with a visa. Not only are the multiple forms to complete online, you also have to travel to your country’s embassy or consulate. Consider that you live in the North of England, you have to travel to London or Belfast in order attend a visa meeting. So not only is it time-consuming, it’s also a drain on financial resources, too.

Access & validity

With the ESTA, you’re permitted to enter the United States for up to 90 days. Once you have applied for your ESTA, it is valid for two years. That is, of course, unless your passport expires or is stolen or lost in within those two years. In those cases, a new ESTA would be required.

The ESTA is predominately used for those that intend to travel to the US on multiple occasions throughout the year, so theoretically you may use it as often as you like within that two-year time frame. (Do not enter the US for more than 180 days per year), or you may be accused of illegal activity and questioned by customs.

For more benefits surrounding ESTA, visit

Why not use a visa to travel to the US?

Well, the answer is simple. First of all, you probably don’t need one. For example, if you’re from one of the 38 countries that participate in the ESTA program and you’re traveling to the US as a tourist, with business meetings to attend, or simply because you have a connecting flight, you simply can just apply for ESTA.

When do I need a visa?

When the purpose of a trip to the US is not for tourism, business or connecting flights, you will require a visa. Therefore, those looking to work or study, for example, need a visa.

What happens if my ESTA is rejected?

If your ESTA is rejected, you will have to apply for a conventional visa.

If you do want to apply for an ESTA, use the official site.

TL;DR? Here’s a video summarizing key information.

This guest post was brought to you by Josh Hobson who created the website after ESTA saved him from being stranded in Mexico during an impromptu trip.