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Requirements to obtain a Visa ESTA

In order to visit the United States, it is well known that you must have an authorization from the US consulate or embassy in your country.

Since 1988, the US Department of State has implemented the so-called "Visa Waiver Program" which granted simplified procedures for authorization to a larger number of people who intended to go to the US for business or tourist travel and from US allied countries. entry into American territory.
Since 2008, the Program has been totally transformed since the United States activated an electronic travel authorization system, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, for all ESTA, it being understood that the rules of the original Program remain in force.

So let's see what ESTA is and how to apply for it, specifying what the necessary requirements are from both the traveler and the country of origin and which ones relating to travel planning within the United States.

What is ESTA and how to request it

ESTA is not an entry visa, but an exemption from applying for a visa and countries that have, in the judgment of the USA, some basic prerequisites, including being considered an internationally recognized sovereign state, can benefit from this concession. it is an ally of the USA or that it shares intelligence or security information, which is a high-income economy. Another of the requisites is that the acceding countries have the necessary and credible infrastructures to combat terrorism, such as border control and the possession of security structures to safeguard against international terrorism, and that there is no risk of frauds on passports keeping special archives that can be consulted in the event of theft or loss of the document by one of its citizens.

Over the years, several countries have joined the Program, and consequently with ESTA, some of them such as Argentina and Uruguay have been removed.

In order to obtain ESTA, a questionnaire must be completed in digital form, form I-94W, which is administered by the Department of National Security (DHS, Department Homeland Security) section Customs and Border Protection through the its reference site on the ESTA page translated into multiple languages.
This page is constantly updated to reflect the continuous changes that are made to the regulation in order to request ESTA which must be requested with a period prior to midnight on the boarding day equal to at least 3 (three) previous working days (72 hours).

Requirements of the Acceding Countries

Aquila americana

Countries participating in ESTA must fall into some particular categories and are as follows (in order of insertion into the Visa Waiver Program):

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    They must be considered allies by the USA such as the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, Iceland, Australia, Portugal, South Korea

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    The country must be located territorially within the European continent such as Austria, Andorra, Finland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Ireland, San Marino, the Republic of Malta, Greece, Switzerland

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    They must be ex-communist countries that have their territory in Europe and that have entered NATO as Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Poland.

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    They mainly maintain business relationships with the United States such as Brunei, Singapore, Taiwan, Chile.

For all other states it is mandatory to follow the standard visa application procedure.

Traveler requirement

To apply for an ESTA permit to be able to take a vacation or your business trip within the territory of the United States, all the points that are listed below must be met. Normally, unless special conditions are met, all Italian citizens traveling for business or tourism fully fall within the parameters necessary for the acquisition of ESTA, but it is still strongly recommended to read the entire reference web page very carefully.

In addition to having the main requirement or being the holder of a passport that has been issued by one of the member countries, the general ones relating to the travel purposes to which applicants must submit so that acceptance of their application for consent can be guaranteed. travel to the USA are:

  • as regards the tourist aspect, make holidays within the territory of the USA, Canada or Mexico or to go to visit friends or family members residing within the USA (a requirement that must be documented).
  • As regards the work aspect, the general requirements for ESTA are the holding of meetings with suppliers or customers (current or future), participation in particular meetings, conferences or contractual negotiations.

A business activity carried out within the USA for the name and account of a company that is not based within the American territory is also considered as a business trip (the use by a US company is expressly prohibited) and who directly provides the applicant's salary.

On the other hand, the travel purposes related to training (cultural or professional) that can be used as a training credit, or work-related, do not fall within the areas of satisfaction for the ESTA request; the latter relates both to the hiring call by an employer who has the operational or legal offices within the USA and to the profession of journalist.

ESTA also does not cover all business or financial activities such as the foundation of new companies based in the USA or making investments within US companies.

There are also other specific requirements that contemplate the suitability of the traveler to ESTA and that allow the landing in the USA.

In order to take advantage of ESTA, the visitor must necessarily have the nationality of one of the member countries and in the event that this has a criminal record, it is not possible to evaluate the individual circumstances and the relative when submitting the application; however, it is recommended for all foreign citizens to submit an ESTA application in time even if an entry visa application is required to travel to the USA as in the following cases where the minimum requirements for obtaining an ESTA are not met .

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    Political reasons: The applicant made one or more trips to one of the countries included in the American black list (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen or North Korea) or had his nationality

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    Health reasons: the applicant has a contagious disease or a mental disorder that can become a danger to society or the surrounding environment

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    Criminal reasons: the applicant has been arrested or sentenced for use or possession of drug or its distribution or for an offense that has caused serious damage or injury to both people and things

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    ESTA can also not be issued in the event that the applicant has not previously complied with one or more conditions of ESTA or the US visa application.

Passport Requirements of the applicant

The traveler who intends to have the United States as a destination must have a passport when requesting ESTA, which must have the following characteristics:

  • must have a validity period that includes both the time when the ESTA application for USA is made and the day of departure for the travel;

  • passport must 
    • contain a section hat can be read by electronic scanning a within the biographical page and
    • be electronic or that is equipped with a chip that contains all the biometric information of the owner

From 1 April 2016, possession of an electronic passport is mandatory for all passengers who intend to travel to the United States using the ESTA program; otherwise, i.e. that the passport does not fall within these specifications, the traveler is not considered suitable to apply for ESTA and consequently boarding on any carrier, ship or air, bound for the USA could be denied.

Pittsburg skyline with ESTA

Travel Planning Requirements

In organizing a trip to the USA (but Canada and Mexico must also be considered) certain requirements must be assessed in order to apply for ESTA and first of all the visitor must have a passport that has a validity time for everything. the period of stay in the USA.
The traveler also has a maximum stay time of 90 (ninety) days from the day of entry into the United States; this time limit is not unique for the USA but also concerns the period of visit to Mexico, Canada and the Caribbean islands.
In the latter case, if entry into the United States is only for transit because the final destination is in Canada or Mexico or the Caribbean islands, it is allowed to return to the United States during the return; this is possible with any type of vehicle, sea, air or land, provided that this does not exceed the duration of the total 90 days from the date of first entry.

Upon arrival in the territory of the United States of America it is compulsory to have made the reservation for the return and to have the relevant ticket (air or naval) or that it may allow the continuation of your journey to another destination that is, except Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, outside the U.S. borders or places dependent on them. If you have tickets in electronic format, the visitor is obliged to bring with them a copy of their route to be presented to the offices of the Customs Protection and Borders when entering the USA through the port and airport airports.

The 90-day time frame allows entry for tourism, business, professional or social events or leisure.

In the first case, holidays, visits to acquaintances or relatives, cultural or study visits, visits for medical treatment or specialized health services are contemplated. As far as business is concerned, the consultation of commercial partners (in place or in progress) or the possibility of contracting business relationships with potential customers is allowed during the stay in the USA.

As part of professional events, if you intend to participate in scientific, educational, professional or commercial conventions or conferences in the United States, or to participate in short, unpaid training courses. You are not allowed to receive any payment for participation in these events, except for a refund of expenses incurred during your stay

If, on the other hand, a traveler must go to the USA for events organized by Associations, Brotherhoods, Foundations, Social Organizations, Charities or services, participation in these events or in any amateur competitions (they may be of a musical or sports type), it is allowed only if travelers do not receive any form of payment, either through money or through gifts of any kind or prizes.

In the event that the arrival in the United States takes place by land from Canada or Mexico they must be in possession of an already completed I-94W form which is normally given by the authorities of the Customs Protection and Police of the US Borders within an entrance gate to the United States.

If, on the other hand, the transit in the USA has a destination other than Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean Islands, any return transit may also take place with a time span greater than 90 but this must be compulsorily carried out through a company participating in the VWP program. , but a second ESTA acceptance request must be submitted.

ESTA's request is compatible with trips that are made with carriers that adhere to the VWP program and that are known by the United States Government while it is not sufficient for trips that are made by any type of private air or naval vehicle .

In the event that the acceptance of ESTA expires during the stay within the USA it is not necessary to complete a new ESTA request, but it is mandatory not to exceed the total period of 90 days of visit to the country as it is not possible to redo an ESTA request during the time period of stay in the United States. In fact, if the request expires, the rules set out above apply or that it is mandatory to leave the USA within 90 days from the date of endorsement of the passport. Those who intend to stay in the United States for more than 90 days of ritual, must make a specific request for an entry visa at the nearest US embassy or consulate, in consideration of the purpose of the trip itself.
In the same way, if you have already entered the USA through ESTA, it is no longer possible to request an extension of the period of stay, a residence permit or a visa.

Conditions relating to consent

Travelers who are on the list of ESTA Visa countries must declare certain clauses in the request, such as accepting the acquisition of their biometric data, including fingerprints, by the US Customs and Border Police not to be a threat to public order, public health and law enforcement within the United States of America and not to have been implicated in espionage, sabotage, terrorism, or genocide.

In addition to general personal information and contact points both inside and outside the USA, requests are those relating to work (if you have an employment contract), to health (if you suffer from certain diseases), if the USA is the final destination or only for transit or if there are administrative or criminal pending with the USA.

The form also declares that it is perfectly aware that the granting of an ESTA does not guarantee entry into the USA in an absolute and automatic way and that, in the event of checks that make the traveler believe a possible threat to national security or to possible public order disruption, upon arrival in the US, the Department of Immigration upon arrival in the United States may deny him entry permit.

Exceptions to normal requirements

The traveler who is in possession of documents accepted by the USA as a passport issued by the US or Canadian administration or is already a holder of a visa or a work permit is exempted from the ESTA request.

For those who do not enter the United States through airports or naval ports but across land borders, it is not mandatory to request an ESTA but strongly recommended in order to be able to pass the customs check faster.

The ESTA form can only be completed by an applicant who meets all the above nationality and personal requirements; in this case it is necessary to apply for a specific Entry Visa, just like those who do not have a passport from a country that is a member of the Visa Waiver Program but who have a residence permit from one of the countries that is part of the Visa Waiver Program.

Passport eligible to apply for ESTA for USA

Now that you are clear about all the requirements to get an ESTA, you can proceed with the request.

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