Written by Michael

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 You might have been thinking about going to the US for a holiday – and why not? Whether it’s a road trip, a jolly around New York, or a crazy-exciting holiday to Orlando’s theme parks, they’re all guaranteed to be super fun. It’s just there’s one big headache that comes about when you’re planning these trips…actually getting there. There’s the hassle of packing your luggage, dealing with the paperwork, wondering exactly how many coffees you’ll need to deal with the jetlag (or for the adventurous among us, finding out what is the absolute maximum amount of caffeine a human body can tolerate before, presumably, it just implodes).

 Luckily for us would-be travelers, the U.S. government has a very easy way to get your travel permissions sorted for the journey. The ESTA Form is an application which you fill out that allows you to receive a travel authorization permit valid for 2 years, letting you stay for a period of 90 days at a time. So long as you’re in possession of a valid digital passport from countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program, you’re all good to go with your application.

You’ll need an ESTA if you want to see this big needle in Washington

Who can get one?

Not everyone is lucky enough to get their ESTA application, unfortunately. If you’re from a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program then you’re good to go and apply. You can also apply as a group, either as a bunch of friends or as a family, so if you’ve got your kids coming with you, you can apply for them no problem.

 The other prerequisites are that all your documents are up to date. Your passport needs to be valid and have a chip inside. You also need to be travelling for a holiday, or for business, and be able to show the border security officers that you’ve got yourself a return or onwards ticket. You can’t use your ESTA form to apply to live in the U.S, no matter how much you fall in love with the country while you’re there, I’m afraid. You need to stick to the proper immigration channels for that!

Why not a normal visa?

Many people do go to the U.S. using the regular old visa, but there are a few key differences between that and ESTA. Visas can last up to 10 years, and let you stay for a total of six months at a time. However, here’s the clincher – it can cost you upwards of $150! The ESTA form is significantly cheaper from the get-go, costing you the teeny-tiny payment of $14 – not bad. On top of that, getting a visa means going to your embassy, dealing with the paperwork, taking the time out of your week…ESTA just involves filling out a form online and you can get your approval back in literally seconds. It’s not generally advised, but for those of us who are a bit scatter-brained, you could even fill it out just before you go to the airport. Double nice.

You’ll also need an ESTA if you want to see Grand Central, who doesn’t?!

Why do I need it?

Well, first of all, the United States requires you to have permission to enter. Generally, starting your holiday off without being turned away at the border is the best way to start. Secondly, it’s just an easier way of getting all your paperwork sorted when going on your trip. Whether you’re there for 2 weeks or a 2-month long road trip, it’s ideal.

One of the best bits about it is its flexibility. You can come back for holidays whenever you like during the 2 year validity period, and it’s actually valid for entry, and not exit. So if you’ve booked a holiday and realised at the last second that you’re staying just over your validity period of 2 years? No worries. So long as your trip is still under 90 days, it doesn’t prevent you from getting home on time, and you don’t have to cut your trip down at all.

Lara loves travelling, and Lara loves writing. So, the two naturally came together and she’s been working on a few online projects – she’s been delving into the paperwork to try and make travelling to the U.S. an easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy process. http://laraseestheworld.wordpress.com/

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