ESTA, or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, “is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).”
Eligible applicants can submit their ESTA application online at any time before travel to the United States including Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
You are eligible to apply for ESTA if:
- You are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country
- You are currently not in possession of a visitor's visa
- Travelers who possess a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose for which it was issued and are not required to apply for an ESTA authorization.
- Your travel is for 90 days or less
- You plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure
- You want to apply for a new authorization for one person or a group of applications for two or more persons
- You possess an e-passport (enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip)
You are ineligible for ESTA if:
- You are a national of a VWP country who have traveled to or been present in Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen at any time on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions)
- You are a national of a VWP country who have traveled to or been present in Cuba at any time on or after January 12, 2021
- You are a national of a VWP country who also is a national of Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea or Sudan
All travelers, including minor children, must obtain a separate ESTA approval.
The entire ESTA application is done online. Processing fees of $21 USD must be paid online via credit card or PayPal. Applicants will be notified of their eligibility to enter the United States following completion of the online application. A decision is typically given within 72 hours of submission.
If approved, generally you will be able to use your ESTA for a 2-year period with each visit limited to a maximum 90 days. You should always check your I-94 online after entering to verify how long you are permitted to stay in the United States.
An ESTA approval confirms that you are eligible for travel to the United States, but it not guarantee that you will be admitted upon arrival and inspection by Customs and Border Protection.
An ESTA denial means you will be required to apply for a B1/B2 visitor's visa before travel.
Can I apply for an extension or change of status when using ESTA?
No. Unlike B1/B2 visitors, those who have entered using ESTA and the VWP are not eligible to file a Form I-539 to extend their visitor status or to change to another nonimmigrant status in the United States. Any ESTA traveler seeking a change of status will need to depart the United States and receive the appropriate nonimmigrant visa before returning.
Can my ESTA be revoked?
Yes, your ESTA approval can be revoked. In that instance, you will be required to apply for a B1/B2 visa before entering the United States as a visitor.
One reason your ESTA may be cancelled is if you overstayed your I-94 after entering on ESTA. You will not be able to apply for another ESTA approval in the future. Additionally, an approved ESTA may be revoked if it is found that you traveled to Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen at any time on or after March 1, 2011 or Cuba at any time on or after January 12, 2021.
Revocation of ESTA does not automatically mean you are ineligible for admission to the United States. In many instances, you will just need to apply for a B1/B2 visa in the future.
If you are found to be inadmissible to the United States in addition to being ineligible for ESTA, you should consult with an immigration attorney to discuss your situation. A waiver may be an option for future travel to the United States.
Contact the Law Offices of James D. Eiss today to schedule a consult for any ESTA-related questions.