US Visitor Visa
The US has very strict rules about who enters the country and how they do so. Entrance to the US is controlled by the Department of Homeland Security, and they have pretty stringent requirements for your US visitor visa. If you’re planning a trip to the US, make sure you prepare well in advance to make sure you have the right permissions to travel to the country.
Do I have a passport for a visa exempt country?
A few years ago, the US relaxed the rules for the citizens of about 40 countries in terms of allowing them into the country. If you have a passport for a so-called ‘visa-waiver’ country, then you should only need to complete a more lightweight application to enter the country. This is called the ‘ESTA’ (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) and it’s a way for the DHS to pre-screen you before your trip. You need to complete the ESTA application correctly to obtain an ESTA application number. This number is essentially your USA visitor visa.
Check the visa waiver list again in the run up to your trip to the US. Occasionally, the countries on the list change, for political reasons, and you don’t want to get caught out if yours falls off the list!
If your country isn’t on the visa waiver list, then you’ll need to complete a full US visitor visa application process.
How long am I staying?
An ESTA application will only cover you for a fairly short trip, up to 90 days. If you intend to stay long then you’ll need to complete a full USA visitor visa application. It isn’t possible to extend your trip beyond 90 days if you are travelling on an ESTA number.
Can I prove my intention to return?
The DHS may require you to prove that you definitely intend to leave the country after 90 days. So you may need to be able to produce a valid return ticket, such as a pre-booked flight home.
Can I prove I have funds?
The DHS may further insist that you prove you can afford to support yourself during the duration of your stay. Remember the ESTA is not a work visa, so you won’t be able to earn any money in the States during your stay.
Have I left enough time?
You need to complete the ESTA application process 72 hours ahead of travelling to the US, as a minimum. You can start the application process months in advance. It’s always best to apply early. If you have any concerns, use our check and apply service – we’ll help you complete the application easily and make sure there are no mistakes that could delay your trip. It’s especially important to get the ESTA completed properly if you don’t have a lot of time before your departure.
Is my passport scannable?
ESTA requires that you have one of the more modern passport styles that can be machine scanned. If it’s been a long time since you last renewed your passport, you may want to check this. It may be necessary to renew your passport before you apply. We can advise you if you have any concerns about whether you have the right generation of passport.
Have I saved my ESTA number?
Once we’ve helped you through the ESTA application process, we’ll speedily respond with your ESTA application number. This will help get you through the security process at both ends of your journey. Hang on to this as it’s really important. Not only do you need it to prove the status of your ESTA travel authorisation during your trip, but you may need it for subsequent visits to the US. So put it somewhere safe!
Helping you with your US visitor visa
We offer a check and application service to give you assurance during the ESTA application process. We can help explain the application and make sure you complete yours correctly to ensure a smooth journey. We’ll ask you to supply the right documents so that there are no problems which could delay you in receiving your important ESTA number that allows you to travel.
If you’ve left things a bit late, or you’re travelling at fairly short notice, we especially recommend using our check and application service as it will save valuable time. We also recommend it if you’re completing an ESTA for the first time, or if there are several of you travelling. It will reduce the complexity of planning your journey, and help prevent any potential mishaps that could spoil your trip.