Do I need a Visa or ESTA to visit the US?

If you are planning a visit to the US, this is certainly a question you will be asking yourself at some point in the near future. Visas can be a real pain to get your head around but the US takes it that step further by also having the ESTA travel programme. But what’s the difference and when will you need one?

The Travel Blogs have teamed up with Josh, who runs the ESTA travel programme site, to give you some more information and answer some basic questions about entry to the US. There is a lot more, in depth information on his website, but here is a brief introduction.

Do I need an ESTA to visit New York City

Travelling to the US is simple with ESTA

If, like many others, you have decided that you will travel to the United States in the not too distant future, you may have obviously thought about booking flights, car rentals, hotels and of course, visas. However, did you know that you may actually not require a visa to travel to the US. Maybe it’s about time you heard about the ESTA travel programme.

What is ESTA?

First and foremost the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a resource that was created by the US Department of Homeland Security back in 2009. It was created to help increase security measures within the country, alongside making the entry process easier for tourists. It advances safety as by allowing the Government to vet any applicants before they enter the country.

The processing of tourists is a lot faster as once they enter the US with an ESTA, it shouldn’t take long for the holders to pass through security. Not to mention, it usually takes around 30 minutes to be obtained . . . more of that later.

Who needs an ESTA?

Good question.
Well, ESTA is for men, women and children, of all colours and creed that are citizens from a list of 38 countries. Those countries include the United Kingdom, France, Malta and much more.

Unfortunately, children will require their own. Travelling to the United States with a child’s ID card is no longer a sufficient means for entry.

Specifically, ESTA is for those that are travelling to the United States as a tourist or for business. Also, it is important to know that an ESTA is also required for those that have a connecting flight that involves stopping or changing in the US, even if you don’t have to clear immigration and enter the US.

Who needs a visa?

Again, good question.
As mentioned previously, only people that fit into the category of tourists, those with business and stop-over flights in the US qualify for ESTA.

Now consider that you’re wanting to work or study in the US, you will require a visa. In fact, if you’re wanting to do anything else in the US that is not in the aforementioned paragraph, you will require a visa.

What are the main benefits of ESTA?

Glad you asked because there are a few.

Do I need an ESTA for travelling to the US?
ESTA info

Visa’s are costly. Mostly, you will look to pay in the hundreds for a visa. Whereas an ESTA costs a mere $14. Also, consider this: you can apply online, from the comfort of your own home. Now for a visa; you’re going to have to travel to your nearest embassy for a meeting, as well as completing online forms.

Previously, I mentioned that if you wanted to apply it only takes 30 minutes to obtain it. You may have been thinking “whaaaaat?”. You’d have been right to have been thinking that. But no, you read right.

From starting your application to receiving your ESTA, usually, you’d be looking at about 30 minutes. Seriously. It’s quick. Although, just a note, the processing, seldom, can take up to 72 hours; but that’s not very often, to be honest.

Another great benefit of is the validity you have with it. Once it has been granted, you can use it for two whole years. Within that time you can travel to the United States as often as you like. No hassle.

Do children need an ESTA?

As a matter of fact, they do. Every man, woman and child, regardless of age require one.

Do I need to print my ESTA in order to fly?

Technically, no. You do not need to show it on the US side of the border as all of the information that you need is in your electronic chip in your passport. However, a few airlines may request to see the paper copy before you board. Just as a precaution, take a printed copy.

However, a few airlines may request to see the paper copy before you board. So just as a precaution, I’d recommend take a printed copy.

Horseshoe Bend is in Arizona USA

How do I apply for ESTA?

That may be the easiest question of them all. Right here on the official page: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta

Still have questions about your ESTA?

Be sure to check out Josh’s website about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization programme where you can find out much more info including a full list of countries that are part of the programme.

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3 Replies to “Do I need a Visa or ESTA to visit the US?”

  1. Funny thing.. I need an ESTA (I am Greek) and my hubby needs a normal tourist visa. So I got the ESTA which is valid for 2 years and he got a 10 year valid visa! LOL.

  2. I had never heard of an ESTA before. I suppose that is because I wouldn’t need one . Interesting on the purpose of needing one just for a connecting flight though.

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