When going to visit the USA as an Australian or New Zealand traveler, you may run into a request for an ESTA. This sounds a bit scary, but it actually isn’t. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization, the system used to check people from visa free countries for eligibility to travel to the USA for short periods of time. It is simply an online pre-screening that helps speed up the customs and immigration process for people who do not need to get a visa but are still traveling.
The first thing needed for this program is an electronic passport. If you have one of these passports, there will be a symbol that looks a bit like a card with a circle on it on the front of your passport. If you do not have this symbol, you will not be able to go ahead with your application and you may need to apply for a new passport. Most modern passports do have this capability and you are not likely to run into any problems.
The second thing that you will need is information about yourself. You need all of your basic information, but also your home address and your employer or school. If you are unemployed and not going to school, you don’t have to worry about this section and will be able to skip it without any problems.
You will need to remember where you have traveled and how long you spent in each country. This will not normally have any bearing on your eligibility, but individuals who have traveled to countries that are currently sanctioned by the USA, such as Iran, may find that they need to fill in more information.
You cannot apply for the ESTA when you already hold a visa, a greencard, or a visitors pass of any kind. If you have permission to enter the USA, you much wait for it to expire before filing your ESTA Application.
Your travel to the USA must be for business, based out of your home country, or for leisure. If you are going in for a school course, even if it is short, you will need a different visa. You cannot use this permit to work within the USA and it will not provide you with a worker identification number, known as a social security number within the USA.
You must be planning to stay in the USA for less than 90 days at one time. You do not have to use all 90 days at once, and you can do multiple trips into the USA on one ESTA over the course of two years. This is particularly important to note if you intend to travel back and forth for business or other reasons. There is no limit to the number of times you can enter the USA on the ESTA, as long as each trip is under 90 days in length.
You do not have to know exactly where you are going or have tickets when you apply for the US Visa waiver. You will however need that information when going through customs at the end of your journey, so keeping information about where you are staying is a good practice.
Overall,getting an ESTA for Australians and New Zealand citizens when you come from a ground with a visa waver program is relatively easy. The cost for them is not very high, and many people find that applying for them months before they intend to travel helps take some of the stress out of planning and international holiday or work trip.