Do you intend to visit the United States of America in the foreseeable future? If so, whether you’re going on a road trip through Nevada or you’re looking for top hotels in New York for couples, the USA offers 9,834 million km² of top experiences and adventure for visitors. From southernmost state Texas to northernmost Alaska, you’ll make lasting memories.
Of course, if you’re coming to America from overseas, it’s likely that you’ll need travel authorisation to enter the country. For some nationalities, this takes the form of the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver, which can be obtained online. For others, you’ll need a B1/B2 visitor visa, which you have to visit a US embassy for. Here’s the full lowdown for both authorisations, via eVisa service Byevisa.
About the ESTA Visa Waiver
To start with, the ESTA is a visa waiver, rather than a full visa. What this means is that, fortunately, it’s far easier to acquire the ESTA than a traditional travel pass. For example, as we mention above, you can apply for the ESTA online, rather than attending an embassy in person. The waiver is also notably cheaper.
As a waiver, the ESTA is only available to the citizens of countries that the USA has reached an agreement with, of which there are around 40. These countries include the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, and most European Union nations. Notably, if you’re Canadian, you’re exempt from even needing the ESTA to enter the US.
With the ESTA, you can visit America multiple times for up to 90 days per trip, and it’s valid for 2 years from the date of issue. So this is ideal, both if you plan to take an extended trip here, or return to the USA repeatedly to discover more of the 50 states.
How to Apply for the ESTA
Fortunately, applying for the ESTA is straightforward and takes just a few minutes. You require just a valid passport, to enter your personal information into the online form, and pay the $14 fee. In most cases, your application is approved as soon as 24 hours.
Then, once your application is approved, you receive your valid ESTA in your email inbox. From here, all you need to do is print a copy to take with you to the airport, and show the border control agents. Et voila! You can enjoy everything that America has to offer for up to 90 days at a time.
About the B1/B2 Visa
If you’re from a country other than the 40 eligible for the ESTA, you’ll need a B1/B2 visitor visa to enter America. The term ‘B1/B2’ indicates this travel authorisation’s visitor categories. ‘B1’ is for business (so you can use this visa to come on business trips) while ‘B2’ is for tourists. To simplify things, these two categories are combined into one visa.
Eligible nationalities for the B1/B2 visitor visa include India, Russia, the Philippines and China. That said, please note that, if you’re visiting America from China, you’ll also have to register online on the US government’s EVUS (Electronic Visa Update System) to be allowed to enter America.
Typically, you’re allowed to stay in the USA for up to 180 days per visit with the B1/B2 visa, you can visit repeatedly, and your travel pass is valid for 10 years from the date of issue. Importantly, though, your B1/B2 visa’s visit conditions may depend on your nationality, so be sure to check while you’re applying.
You can only use this travel pass for business or tourism. If you’re coming to America to study, work, or reside permanently, you’ll require a different visa. In this case, be sure to consult at your nearest US embassy or consulate.
Steps to Apply for the B1/B2 Visitor Visa
To apply for the B1/B2 visitor visa, the first step is to fill in the online form DS-160 Online Nonimmigrant Visa Application. You’ll require a passport with at least six months’ validity remaining, a digital photo of yourself, and information about any previous US visas you’ve held. You’ll also have to pay the $160 visa application fee. Filling in this form takes around 90 minutes, so get comfy first!
Once you’ve completed form DS-160, you apply for a visa interview at the US embassy or consulate. At the interview, you’ll require your passport, your completed form DS-160, plus the receipt of payment. You’ll be asked questions about, among other things, how long you plan to visit the USA, how you intend to support yourself financially during your state, and who you’ll be travelling with.
When you successfully pass the interview, you’ll be issued your B1/B2 visitor visa. You then take this with you on your trip to show at the USA’s border control. At this point, you’re free to enter America and enjoy your visit!
So to conclude, you now have a good picture of how to obtain your travel pass to enter the USA, either the ESTA waiver or the B1/B2 visa. Whether you’re sampling the cuisine of New Orleans or enjoying nature in Alaska, you’re sure to have an outstanding time Stateside.