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US travel - visa or ESTA?

US travel - visa or ESTA?
iVisa | Updated on Feb 01, 2019

Planning a trip to the United States can be a complicated process. You need to take care of transportation and accommodation, but one of the first things that should be on your mind before you book a flight is the document that allows you to go to the US. The type of document you need depends on a series of factors such as how long are you planning to stay in the US or your nationality.

We will begin with the US ESTA because it is easier. Why is that? It is because all the other travelers who do not qualify for an ESTA need a US travel visa. Of course, if they are not from one of the visa-exempt countries and territories. There are 5 of them, so chances of a visa exemption are pretty low.

According to the visa policy of the United States, there are 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program. Their citizens can travel to the US without applying for a US travel visa, but they need an ESTA instead. To check whether or not you are among those nationalities, we recommend that you use iVisa’s Visa Checker. It is fast and easy to use. Just access the tool, choose your nationality from the drag-down menu on the left, and select the United States in the menu on the right. If you are eligible for a US ESTA, you will be able to apply for it right there and then.

The application process for a US ESTA could not be more straightforward. First, you need to make sure that you met all the requirements. A US ESTA requires a few documents, but you need to provide all of them. Here is what you need:

  • Passport – you must hold a valid electronic passport with a digital chip that contains your bio-metric info. At the same time, the passport needs to be valid for at least another 6 months from the date of arrival in the United States.

  • E-mail address – the US ESTA arrives via e-mail, which is why you must have a valid e-mail address to which you have access. Once iVisa sends you the ESTA, do not forget to print out at least one physical copy of the document.

  • Means of payment – the payment must be made during the online application process, which is why you must have a method of online payment. iVisa accepts credit and debit cards, but you can also use PayPal, Alipay, or WeChat; whichever you find most convenient.

Then, you need to fill in an online application form. That is easy as well since it only takes about 20 minutes to complete. iVisa’s support service is at your disposal 24/7 if you need any help. The form has three steps, and once you complete all of them, you can submit the application and the US ESTA can arrive in as little as 6 hours if that is the processing time you select.

As far as the US travel visa, the one you can get only from a diplomatic mission, the effort you need to put in is slightly more significant. There are visas, such as the B1/B2, which involve an online application form, but you still need to schedule an interview. The point is that the application process for a consular visa is more extended. Moreover, there are about 185 types of US visas, so you need to apply for the one that best suits your personal circumstances such as the duration of your stay, category of traveler, your purpose in the US, and so on.

To find out the requirements, we suggest that you give the embassy a call before heading down there. You can find a lot of information online, but not all of it is reliable. What we can tell you is that all visa applications require a valid passport, photos, and an application form.

All in all, whether you need a US travel visa or a ESTA depends on multiple factors. However, once you establish those factors, applying for the right document should not be complicated. You may find some challenges along the way but that is just a part of the process.

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