Visa & Esta’s

3 May 2019

With less than 30 days before WWDC19, the concept of travelling to California and attending the Apple conference are quickly becoming a reality. However before being allowed in the USA, I’ll need to apply for a travel permit.

One thing many people travelling to the USA don’t realise is that you’ll need a visa to pass through customers and enter the country. For citizens of trusted US allies, such as the UK, this process has been streamlined thanks to the introduction of the ESTA: visa waiver program.

If you are a UK citizen applying for an ESTA, the process is fairly painless. It involves filling in a form on a US government ESTA website at least 72 hours before you are set to go. First thing to note is be careful when searching for the ESTA website online via Google and Bing. There are many 3rd party services that claim to be the official ESTA website – which to the untrained or unfamiliar eye would appear to be legitimate. However these non-official websites are either fraudsters phishing for personal information, or they provide the same service but charge higher fees (I’ll cover costs further down).

The form itself is fairly straight forward: you’ll need to enter in your personal information including permanent UK residence address, current and past employer details, parents details, family you may have in the US and dates of travel. You’ll also need to input the address of where you’re staying whilst in the US including their contact telephone numbers. Therefore only apply for an ESTA once you know where you’re staying – or you won’t be able to complete the forms.

The whole process can take up to 30 minutes to complete, so set aside enough time and make sure you pay attention to avoid typos or mistakes: border control will not look at errors in jest.

To submit your ESTA for review, there is a charge of $14USD – roughly £10. Once submitted your application is sent for ‘review’ where you’ll see one of three status’s.

Approved – means your application has been accepted and you may continue to proceed to the USA.

Pending – means they are reviewing your application and a result will be published soon. Typically a result is issued within 48 hours of submission – but this can be longer. The USA advises all visitors to apply for an ESTA as soon as you know you’ll be travelling there to ensure there is enough time to sort out errors or declined applications.

Declined – if you receive this status, the US government website recommends you call them to discuss your application.

Another thing to note however is that an approved ESTA does not guarantee you entry in to the USA. Border control can still refuse you entry for what ever reason. Another useful tip is that ESTA’s are valid for two years: meaning repeat visits to the US don’t require a $14 Visa each time. Instead you can retrieve your existing ESTA and simply update the address of where you are staying each time.

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