ESTA is an authorization for people travelling to the United States under the VISA WAIVER PROGRAM. The ESTA application form is an opportunity for you to be pre-selected and to declare certain information about yourself. But once you land there, the decision goes back to the border patrol officer about whether or not you’re allowed to enter the country.
When you present your passport at a border control post, the officer may ask you a series of questions about your trip. These questions can cover what you do in the United States, where you are staying, where you are going to visit, if you have ever been there, etc. You may also be asked about your financial resources, what you do for a living, and how you can afford your trip. Of course, these questions vary from person to person, but don’t worry if you are asked about these things.
These questions are mainly to ensure that you do not intend to move to the United States for work. Although they may seem a little intimidating, you should not worry, instead you should answer politely and honestly so that the process is as harmonious as possible. If, for some reason, you are suspected of lying about your ESTA application, or trying to migrate to the USA, you will be put back on the same plane you came to return to your home country and port.
Once you are aware of these five things, all other aspects of ESTA are essentially simple and easy to understand. They should also help you determine if the ESTA is valid for your travel or if a U.S. visa would be more appropriate. They should also dispel any doubts you may have had about the two key periods associated with ESTA: the 90-day period and the 2-year validity period.
As a general rule, and unless your passport expires soon, it is a good idea to apply for your ESTA authorization online as soon as you know you will be travelling to the United States. Although the process is incredibly fast and applications are generally approved within 24 hours, it is always possible that your request will not be accepted. If this happens, you will need to follow the traditional U.S. visa application process to obtain a U.S. travel authorization. This process is generally much longer, so it is a good idea to prepare well in advance if necessary.