Approximately 38 countries, most of which are European, are eligible for the USA Visa Waiver Program (VWP). If you come from one of these countries, you qualify to apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization visa otherwise referred to as a USA ESTA visa. This visa is usually granted for a travel not extending more than 90 days and you can conveniently apply for it online. If you intend to make a longer visit, you will need to apply for the general visa.
Applying for an ESTA visa is easy. You just fill out the online form and the USdepartment of homeland security will review your application to ensure your passport does not raise any flags. You need to be extra careful when filling in your passport number, country of citizenship, contact details and other information requested since there is no option of editing this once you click the submit button. The US authorities promise to take a couple of days to process the application but they hold the right to deny or grant the visa depending on the results they get from screening your application. Minors are not allowed to apply for this visa and you also have to be in good health. Your financial background will also be checked before the visa is granted.
The main objective of the USA ESTA Visa is to hasten the application process of short-term visas for citizens from VWP eligible countries. You are obligated to notify the authorities If any of the details you provided in the visa application changes before or after you get the visa. These includes your gender, passport, contact details or any other important information.
For the would-be travellers that do not trust online applications and would prefer making a hardcopy application, well, it is not an option for this case. Only online applications are accepted. However, the website is secure so you do not need to worry about losing your sensitive information. Online applications make it easier for the authorities to receive an unlimited number of applications per day and process them within a matter of hours. In fact, unless there are some serious discrepancies in your application, your visa should be ready for collection within 72 hours.
You need to plan out your travel itinerary well to know exactly when you should apply for your USA ESTA visa. Even though the visa has a two-year validity, you can only use it in the USA for 90 days. Since it does not take too long to process, you may want to apply for it in one to two weeks of your departure date.