Currently, it is entirely possible for citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries to travel to the United States without a visa, by air or sea, for a stay not exceeding 90 days. A new electronic security system for screening visitors before they enter the United States was created and implemented in 2009. Thus, all visitors entering the USA without a visa must obtain ESTA, a travel authorization issued via the Internet by filling out an online form for enhanced security measures.
Visa-exempt travelers entering the United States
Since 2009, after the implementation of the Visa Waiver Program, 40 countries (accepted in 2022) including most European countries and some Asian countries, have been granted a visa waiver to travel to the USA. However, access to the U.S. territory is not automatic. All travelers from these countries must obtain ESTA electronic travel authorization in advance. This procedure was created to control and verify the identity of visitors before they even arrived on American territory.
Access will thus be denied to individuals who are at risk, who may be a threat to homeland security or who pose a threat to public health (e.g., contracting a highly contagious disease), as well as to those who have not properly filled out the ESTA form. However, it should be noted that this electronic authorization is only valid for 2 years. The authorized duration of each stay in the United States is 90 days maximum, regardless of the reason: tourism, business or transit.
The means of transportation tolerated to go to the United States with an ESTA are: travel by sea, by air, but also since 2022 by land. It is mandatory to use air and sea companies recognized by the American authorities. In order to prepare your trip to the United States correctly, it is useful to find out which companies are approved by the authorization.
Obtaining an ESTA USA for a trip to the USA
In order to apply for ESTA and stay in the USA, the traveler must first have a valid passport that meets the requirements of the American government, so it is important to check the validity of the passport. Thus, the passports accepted are the new biometric passports and the electronic passports. Your passport number allows you to apply for an ESTA online, this number will be linked to your application.
Then, you have to log on to one of the specialized sites that are in charge of submitting the ESTA application or to the official website of the American government if you do not wish to access personalized assistance.
A possibility to update certain information is offered during the 2 years of validity of the ESTA document and a follow-up of the file is possible. The information requested is mainly related to the identity of the traveler and the passport. Payment by credit card allows you to submit your application online. If the ESTA form corresponds to the expectations of the American authorities, it will be issued after 72 hours from the time the application is submitted. In case of rejection, there are two possibilities, either the rejection is due to a simple error in the form and in this case it is possible to make a new application, or you do not meet all the eligibility criteria. There is only one solution left to be able to visit the United States: apply for a USA visa at the US embassy.
With the ESTA or the American visa in your possession, you can go to the United States several times during two years to visit several American cities, to discover: the valley of death, the various national parks, the golden gate bridge, the falls of Niagara or the statue of liberty. A great way to immerse yourself in the American culture.