Do I need a visa for Florida?

Category: ESTA Eligibility | 0
Do I need a visa for Florida?

Readers who are considering visiting Florida in the U.S. for tourism purposes in the near future might be uncertain whether or not they need a visa. Let’s briefly look at their options.

Visa vs. ESTA

The general rule is that you will need a visa to visit the U.S. unless you qualify to enter that country without a visa by successfully applying for an ESTA under the VWP (Visa Waiver Program). If you apply for an ESTA, however, and the authorities reject your application, your only option will be to apply for a visa.

Citizens of Bermuda or Canada do not need a visa to visit any destination in the U.S.

Are there any differences between an ESTA and a conventional visa?

There are several differences between the two. Firstly, one can apply for an ESTA online, while for a visa, you can only apply at an American consulate or embassy. Secondly, only citizens of one of the Visa Waiver countries* are allowed to apply for an ESTA. (See list below).

An ESTA also does not allow you to visit the U.S. to apply for work or to live in the U.S. A visa is also valid for ten years and enables one to remain in the United States for as long as six months at a time, while an ESTA is only valid for two years and allows visits of no longer than 30 days.

What does the term ESTA stand for?

The term ESTA refers to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Nationals of any of the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) listed below are allowed to apply. Take note that you must apply even if you will only be entering the United States to catch a connecting flight.

What does the term Visa Waver Program refer to?

This is the overriding program that enables nationals from specific foreign countries to visit the United States for pleasure or business by applying for an ESTA. Stays can not exceed 90 days.

Where and how can I apply for an ESTA?

All you have to do is visit the website of US Customs and Border Protection and submit an online application. If everything goes smoothly, you will receive a reply within 72 hours.

In which countries can citizens apply for an ESTA?

Every year millions of visitors travel to Florida by using the ESTA program, which allows for effortless visits to the United States without having to apply for a visa.

Successfully applying for ESTA enables you to enter the U.S. for tourism, business, or transit purposes without any hassles. If your application is approved, you will be allowed to stay in the U.S. for no longer than 90 days at a time over a 2-year period. According to the Department of Homeland Security website, citizens of the following countries currently qualify to make use of the ESTA program:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

What are the other criteria to apply for an ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program?

You will qualify to apply provided that you:

  • Plan to remain in the United States for no longer than 90 days for pleasure, business, or transit purposes
  • You are a national or citizen of a country that belongs to the Visa Waiver Program
  • Your passport is valid and has been issued lawfully by a VWP country
  • You will arrive in the U.S. on board a carrier of one of the VWP countries
  • You have an onward or return ticket
  • Your trip will not end in an adjacent island or neighboring country unless you are a resident of that area

What else do I need to successfully apply for an ESTA via the VWP program?

For your visit to be approved, your passport must be electronic. It should contain a recent passport photo and all the required biometric information. It should be valid for at least your whole stay in the United States, including the day you leave the country.

Please note that on the day you arrive in the United States, a CBP (Customs and Border Protection) officer will inspect you, and he or she still has the right to decide that, under U.S. law, you are not admissible.

The bad news: Some individuals can not apply for an ESTA

Please note that if you have been to any of the following countries on or since 1 March 2011, you will generally speaking not qualify for an ESTA – so your only remaining option is to apply for a U.S. visa.

  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Libya
  • North Korea
  • Somalia
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • Yemen

If you have visited Cuba in the past, you might also not qualify for an ESTA, but you can still apply for an American visa. The State Department website has more information on this.

The U.S. also has a rule that prohibits visitors who belong to any of the categories below from visiting the country on an ESTA. They can still apply for a visa, though:

  • Anyone who has in the past been arrested (irrespective of whether or not that arrest led to being criminally convicted)
  • Someone with a criminal record
  • Anybody who has in the past been deported from the United States
  • Somebody who has in the past been refused admission into the U.S.
  • Individuals who have in the past successfully applied for an ESTA and then overstayed the maximum period of 90 days

What is the cost involved when applying for an ESTA?

You have to pay a fee when applying for an ESTA. At the time of going to press, it was 21 USD. This includes an application fee of 17 USD and a $4 processing fee.

If the application is successful and you are authorized to embark on your trip to the United States, there is an additional FEE of $10. If it is denied, however, you will only be charged the 21 USD.

For how long is an ESTA valid?

An approved ESTA will stay valid for a 2-year period. It can be used for several trips during this time, provided that none of the trips can last for more than 90 days. Like with most rules, however, there is one exception: if your passport should expire before the end of the two years, your ESTA will expire with it.

What is the situation if I want to visit Florida via a travel firm?

If you are using a travel company to arrange your visit to Florida or anywhere else in the United States, you have two choices. You can submit the application on your own, or you can request advice and assistance from the travel firm. Some travel firms are prepared to assist customers with completing the application form, while others will explain to you how to submit the online application yourself.

What will happen to my ESTA if my flight is canceled or delayed?

As far as your application is concerned, this will not be an issue at all. Your ESTA remains valid for a period of two years, and there will be no need to submit a new application should your flight be canceled or delayed.

What can I do if my ESTA application is not approved?

If the authorities, for any reason whatsoever, decide to reject your ESTA application, you will receive a response that states: “Travel Not Authorized.” In that case, the following points are essential:

  • There is nothing you can do about the rejected ESTA application. Not even the court can overrule the decision.
  • The rejection of an ESTA application has no impact on your eligibility or not to apply for a U.S. visa.
  • You will have to consult the website of the Department of State to read more about the procedures you have to follow to apply for a visa.