How long is an ESTA valid?

Category: ESTA Status | 0
How long is an ESTA valid?

The term ESTA refers to a special travel authorization that citizens from a selected group of countries forming part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) qualify for if they want to visit the US for tourism or business purposes. An ESTA allows citizens from VWP countries to visit the United States without having to go through the much more protracted process of applying for a visa.

You can apply online, and if nothing unforeseen happens, you could have an approved ESTA on your desk within 72 hours or less.

For how long is an ESTA valid?

An approved ESTA remains valid for a 2-year period. If your passport, however, expires within that 2-year period, the ESTA will expire with it, and you will have to apply for both a new passport and a new ESTA.

Having an approved ESTA does, however, not mean that you can stay in the United States for two years. You can visit the US as many times as you want during that two-year period for business or tourism purposes, but you are only allowed to stay for 90 days or less at a time.

Does an ESTA allow me to live in the US and just leave the country every 90 days for a day or two?

Absolutely not. Although there doesn’t seem to be any official legislation determining how long you have to leave the US before you can come back for your next visit, the general rule appears to be that you have to leave the country for at least the same period of time that you spent in the US — with a maximum of 90 days at a time.

Remember that the person who has the final say will be the CBP (Customs and Border Patrol) officer at your point of entry into the United States. If he or she gets the impression that you are trying to abuse your ESTA privileges, you might still end up being refused entry into the country despite having an approved ESTA.

Apart from my passport expiring, when else will I have to apply for a new ESTA?

You also have to apply for a new ESTA if any of the following happens:

  • You change your first or last name or both
  • You undergo a gender change
  • You acquire citizenship in a new country

If you already have an ESTA and are found guilty of a serious crime, it is possible that your ESTA will be revoked. In that case, you will not be able to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) again. The ESTA application process asks questions regarding criminal convictions, and if you answer “yes” to the questions regarding convictions, you will be told that you are not eligible to travel under the VWP and that you should apply for a visa instead.

Does having an approved ESTA provide me with guaranteed entry into the US?

No, as you probably guessed by now, an ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. While an approved ESTA does allow you to travel to a U.S. port of entry and request permission to enter the country, the final decision about whether to allow someone entry or not is made by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.

In other words, the ESTA authorization allows you to travel to the United States, but it does not guarantee entry. If the CBP officer, for example, concludes that you omitted important information when filling out the application form, you could still be denied entry into the country. You can rest assured that this does not happen every day, but it only stresses why it’s so important to answer all the questions on the ESTA application form 100% truthfully.

What are the eligibility requirements for an ESTA?

To qualify for an ESTA, you have to meet the following criteria:

  • You have to be a citizen or national of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
  • You should have a valid passport from one of the VWP countries
  • You must intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure, or transit
  • You should not have a criminal record or have been found guilty of a serious crime
  • You should not have previously been denied entry into the United States or had your visa application rejected
  • You must not have traveled to any of the following countries: Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen after March 1, 2011You should not suffer from a communicable disease or pose a threat to public health or safety.

What will happen to me if I overstay my ESTA?

Overstaying an ESTA can have serious consequences. If you overstay your ESTA, you will, in fact, be in the US unlawfully. This can create a number of consequences and concerns. Your current ESTA will be canceled, and you may, for example, be required to leave the United States immediately. You could also face penalties such as fines or a ban on future travel to the country through the ESTA program.

Depending on how long you overstayed the ESTA, you could be prohibited from traveling to the US for a maximum period of up to 10 years. This is because overstaying an ESTA authorization is a direct violation of American immigration legislation.

Can the 90-day maximum stay at a time for an ESTA be extended for any reason whatsoever?

It is only possible to extend your ESTA to stay longer in the case of an emergency. If you have to stay longer than 90 days because of an emergency, you should apply for what is known as a “Satisfactory Departure”, which allows you to stay in the US for up to 30 days beyond the expiration of your ESTA without facing penalties or legal action.

To qualify for a Satisfactory Departure, you will have to show that you are unable to leave the US through no fault of your own. The following are considered emergencies that may allow for an extension:

Unforeseen Emergency: If you are facing an unforeseen emergency that requires you to stay in the United States longer than your ESTA allows, you may be able to request an extension. This is, however, not guaranteed. You will have to deliver acceptable proof of your emergency and show that you have no option but to stay in the United States.

Travel Restrictions: If you are unable to travel due to circumstances beyond your control, such as a natural disaster or an airline strike, you may be able to successfully request that your ESTA be extended until you can travel again. This is not guaranteed, and here, as well, you will have to provide evidence of the circumstances preventing you from traveling.

Please also note that it is mandatory that you apply for the request before the expiration of the current maximum stay of 90 days on your ESTA. Don’t just overstay your welcome and hope for the best!