United States ESTA or Electronic system for travel authorization is one of the most streamlined and advanced entry systems. It is a requirement from the US for travelers using the Visa Waiver Program to fill out the 1-9w form online before departing to the US. Since January 12, 2009, if you do not have this done before arriving at the airport it will be denied by the airline.
Under this program, the US allows foreigners to stay in the country for up to 90 days for pleasure or business without a Visa. The good thing is that once it is approved, you can use it for more than one visit. Since it is not a visa, it can only be used by citizens coming from Waiver Program countries. For more information click on the active link If you are a non-citizen of these nations, you need to apply for a visa.
Applying for ESTA
For you to apply for ESTA, you need to login to the department of homeland security website with your details. These include your passport, your first flight details, and the hotel address where you will be staying. It is important to do this at least 72 hours prior to boarding your plane. After filling the form, you will be informed whether you are authorized or not. Ensure that you get a copy of the authorization because it will be needed at the airport. As from August 2010, a fee of $14 must be paid when applying for ESTA. Since there are so many websites claiming to do this, you need to be very careful about scams. Remember, there is no website that is working together with the Department of Homeland Security
• You cannot study in the US while visiting using ESTA
• Since your ESTA is valid for two years, you can visit the US for 90 days anytime you like as long as the two years has not elapsed.
• You should visit the US either as a visitor visiting relatives, for business or as a tourist.
• You can visit and leave the US as many times as you like as long as your ESTA clearance is still valid. However, you are not allowed to spend more than 180 days a year as an ESTA traveler.
• As an ESTA traveler, you are not allowed to work in the US.
• You must be in good health.
• You must not be having any criminal conviction.
When traveling under ESTA, not all your medical requirements are covered by the US healthcare systems. It is, therefore, important that you arrange for a travel insurance through a reputable company.