ESTA visas are not actually visas at all. Though often referred to as an “ESTA visa,” the acronym actually stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It refers to the United States’ online program for authorizing travelers from approved countries to visit the US.
In other words, ESTA allows people from a list of approved countries to gain entry to the United States through a travel authorization rather than a visa. These visitors can come to the US for vacations or on business trips for up to 90 days.
This is great for people who live in ESTA visa countries for a number of reasons. For one thing, obtaining a travel authorization is substantially easier than obtaining a visa to visit the United States. It’s also much cheaper. Rather than paying an expensive fee, people who apply for ESTA simply pay $14 per application.
People from over 30 different countries can qualify for travel authorization under the Visa Waiver Program. Countries on the list include many European Union nations, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and several Asian countries. A few countries that are notably not on the list include China, India, Russia, and Brazil.
With an ESTA visa, 90 days is your limit for trips to the United States. Your trip can only be for business or pleasure — this can’t be used as a substitute for a student visa, for example. And with an ESTA visa, reentry into the United States multiple times is not a possibility. For that, you will need an appropriate travel visa.
One of the best things about the ESTA application is that it can be done completely online. If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country, all you will need is a valid passport from your home country, a credit card or PayPal account to pay the application fee, your contact information, and your most recent employment information, if applicable. To find out if your country is on the Visa Waiver Program list, click here.
If for any reason you need help applying for your travel authorization, Swift can be of service. Likewise, if you are a US citizen in need of a travel visa, we are always here to help. We can obtain expedited travel visas and passports in as little as one business day. Contact our team any time to learn more.
2 thoughts on “What is an ESTA Visa?”
If I want to hire a folk artist to come and teach two five day classes at our folk art school here in the United states, (they are paid the same amount as our American instructors) can they come on and ESTA as I have been told, by US immigration that they need to have a non-immigrant work visa. However many folk art schools are bringing them in on ESTAs and therefore avoid all the expenses of filing for a non-immigrant visa, traveling to the American Embassy for an interview etc. In our case a Q-1 visa.
If the artist is being paid, they would fall under a work visa. We would recommend checking with an immigration attorney on any gray areas that could be used with the ESTA Visa.