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If you're traveling to the US, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization or the ESTA is, by far, one of the best options for you and save you from all the stress and hassles of a visa application. This is if you're a national or a passport-holder of any one of the 37 selected countries under the Visa Waiver Program of the US, also called the VWP.

The program is a mechanism of the US to boost tourism of the country by allowing nationals of certain countries to board a carrier bound for the US even without a visa. One only needs to have a travel authorization or the ESTA, which can be processed online.

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How convenient is the ESTA under the VWP?

Compared to the experience of a visa application, the ESTA process is simpler and more convenient especially for those who are not seeking for permanent transfer in the US or not staying in the country for a considerable period of time to work or study. Here are some of the features of the ESTA that makes it an option worth considering if you're traveling to the US:
It's ideal for short-term visits (less than 90 days), whether for business or pleasure.

The online application is more straightforward and with simpler and fewer requirements than a visa. Likewise, processing takes less time as you can easily get the results of your authorization within just 72 hours after application.
Travelers to the US on short notice, such as businessmen suddenly called to a meeting or persons needing to visit a family or relative in the US under emergency circumstances can easily board the flight with just the travel authorization.

While it does not meet the legal requirements of a visa, the ESTA is good for a period of two years and for multiple visits to the US.
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Your ESTA checklist
The first item in your checklist is to prepare the things you need for your ESTA application. You only need three: (1) an electronic passport with your biographic information, (2) a completely filled-out application form which you can download on the ESTA website; and (3) a credit card for your application payment.

The second item to note is your ESTA application number, a set of alphanumeric symbols that also serves as your application reference number.

Finally, the third item to note before you book that flight or board your plane is to check your authorization's expiry date. The ESTA is good for 2 years, and the expiration date is indicated right beside your authorization application number. Before traveling, make sure that it's still valid otherwise you will not be allowed to travel. Also, this authorization must be updated prior to each trip to the US. After two years or when you're issued a new passport (depending which comes first), you need to secure a new travel authorization.

Of course, if you're traveling to the US for more than 90 days, you would now need to secure a travel visa. Also, if you have a valid travel visa to the US, you may not anymore apply for the ESTA.

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