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The ESTA Visa is used by tourists visiting the United States from countries under the USA’s Visa Waiver Program, like the UK and most of Europe. The paperwork to enter the USA can seem confusing, especially for first time travellers to the country, and an ESTA Visa can seem complicated to apply. If you’re not sure whether you need one, or the Visa Waiver program works, read through this guide and get your vacation essentials on track with the right paperwork to enter the country. 

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What’s The Difference Between An ESTA And A Visa?

Approved travel authorization is not a visa, and does not meet the legal requirements to serve in the place of a United States visa when one is required. If you have a valid visa, you will be able to travel to the United States for the purpose that the visa was issued, like work or tourism. If you have a valid visa, you do not need to apply for travel authorization. 

Do I Need An ESTA Visa If I Already Have A Valid Visa?

No. The ESTA visa is only required by those travelling into the United States without a standard visa under the Visa Waiver Program, by air or sea. These travellers must apply for travel authorization under ESTA. 

If you are not eligible for ESTA, you should apply for a visa. 

Who Is Eligible For ESTA?

You may apply for ESTA if you will be in the United States for less than 90 days for business, transit or pleasure. You must have a valid passport from a visa waiver program country, which includes Australia, the UK, Japan and most of Europe. You must arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier, with a valid return or onward ticket. Your travel must terminate in an adjacent island or contiguous territory, unless that is your home. 

Your identity will be confirmed and officials will decide if you pose any kind of threat to the welfare or security of the United States. You must comply with all the requirements of the ESTA application. 

What Does ESTA Cost?

There is a standard fee of $14 to register under ESTA. If your registration has cost more than this, then that likely means that you have registered with a third party website that will charge extra in order to submit the ESTA application on your behalf. 

If this is the case for your application, you should check the reference number you were given when you registered at with the official US government site to make sure that your registration is genuine and has been done correctly. If your application has not been handled properly, you may have a real problem when you try to enter the United States. 

Is My Data Safe?

Any information that you have submitted as part of your ESTA application is subject to very strict privacy provisions, the same as those controls set up for similar travel screening programs. Access to this information is limited to those with a professional need to know. No other person will have any kind of access to your data. 

My ESTA Has Been Denied. Do I Need A Visa?

Yes. If your ESTA application has been turned down, you will need a regular visa to be allowed to enter the United States. 

Why Was My ESTA Denied?

The CBP will not tell you why your ESTA was denied, due to security and privacy laws. There are several reasons why a denial might happen, so consider if perhaps one of these reasons may apply to you. 

Your ESTA will be denied if you have previously overstayed in the United States beyond the amount of time allowed by your visa or visa waiver, or if you visited without the appropriate visa to allow you to work and then took employment. If you have been denied entry before, you will likely be denied again. 

If your answers on your ESTA application were incorrect, your application will be denied. You will also be denied if your apply with a passport that you claimed was lost or stolen, but was actually in your possession. You will also be denied if your have a criminal record, a conviction history, or share the name of a criminal or have been a victim of identity theft. 

Applications may also be denied if you have recently travelled to Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen. 

If you believe your application should not have been denied, you can appeal via the DHS website. 

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