Anybody travelling to the US is typically required to get a visa. However, for citizens of 38 countries, this is no longer the case. Citizens of the United Kingdom, France, Chile and Norway among others can now apply for an ESTA(Electronic System for Travel Authorization), under the Visa Waiver Program.
The Visa Waiver Program was introduced to ensure that tourists and business personnel were able to be processed through borders quickly and to improve the security of the country.
The ESTA offers great benefits to those eligible to apply.
The ESTA application is completed solely online. The application form takes less than 30 minutes. This means that applicants will not have to wait at the embassy for an appointment anymore. Moreover, once the application has been processed, applicants can expect an email response within 72 hours, although the responses usually arrive within minutes. When completing the application form, you must ensure that you have an electronic passport.
Once the ESTA application is completed and the access has been granted, it is valid for two years. Within that two years, users may travel to the United States as many times as they desire; so long as they do not stay in the country for more than 90 days per visit.
However, if you are from a Visa Waiver Programme country and have a connecting flight that flies through the US, you would be required to obtain an ESTA for that trip. For example, if you are flying from London to Mexico City with a layover in Miami. Everyone that lands in the US, even for international connecting flights is considered as entering the country.
It is important to note that if an ESTA is granted, it does not necessarily ensure that they will be granted access into the US. Officials at the borders ultimately deem who can or cannot enter the country.
Those entering the US on an ESTA may be required to prove that they have enough funds to last them for the entire duration of their stay. Failure to do so may result in being denied entry into the county, so make sure to bring along a recent bank statement on paper.
If your application for an ESTA is rejected, you will just need to apply for a traditional visa through your local embassy or consulate.
For more information regarding ESTA check out ESTA Form.