The acronym ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. The system was designed to identify travelers who have the right to enter the United States; under the Visa Waive Program (VWP).
It is worth noting that the ESTA only does not grant visitors the right to enter the US; this is left to US Customs and Border Protection officers at the point of entry used. Travelers are encouraged to complete the ESTA process as soon as they decide to travel. This will help ensure that they have enough time to complete any necessary follow ups.
Now that we have answered the question what is ESTA; read on to learn more about what it entails.
Once your ESTA application is successful, your right to travel to the US will be maintained for a period of two years. It is however worth noting that there are situations in which you might have to make a new ESTA application before the end of this two year period.
First and foremost, you will have to make a new application once your passport is renewed before this period is over. Furthermore, you will be required to make a new application after you change your name or citizenship. Criminal convictions may also mean that you have to apply for a new ESTA.
ESTA is used to assist in stopping undesirable travelers from VWP countries from entering the US. The ESTA application process is aimed at collecting biographic information relating to the applicant, while also answering important VWP questions.
The application process is quite brief, and will not take more than a few minutes. All you have to do is go to the official ESTA website and fill in the application form. It is worth noting that the form is only available online. Provided that you have all the relevant details on hand, the process should not take more than a few minutes.
After completing the application you will receive one of three responses; your request will be approved, denied or labeled as pending. Where your request for ESTA approval is denied, you are then required to take the old fashioned approach and apply for a paper visa instead. Where the request is labeled as pending, you will be required to wait a little longer for a definitive response.
ESTA grants successful applicants the right to remain in the US for a period of ninety days once they are granted entry. Even as we answer the question what is ESTA its worth pointing out that this is not a visa, and as such cannot be used in lieu of the same.