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7 Ways the US ESTA Visa Scheme Beats Regular Visas

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United State of America Passport

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA, is a unique travel permit that gives travelers many privileges lacking from regular visa schemes.

Hello and welcome to this blog about ESTA. We hope you enjoy your stay.

Although people sometimes confuse an ESTA USA for a visa, they’re not the same. ESTA is a travel authorization scheme. ESTA is a travel permit regulated under a unique program known as the Visa Waiver Program. That is different from a visa.

If ESTA isn’t a visa, how then does it allow people to enter the US?

Well, you can call ESTA the key that opens visa-free doors to certain individuals. These individuals – who are citizens of select countries – enjoy free passage anytime they like to and from the US. As of writing, there are about 39 countries on this visa-free program list, most of which are European Union (EU) countries.

ESTA Key Details: How does it really work?

ESTA’s mode of operation can be confusing at times, especially when someone’s just hearing about it for the first time. So, let’s quickly make some things about the program clear.

The ESTA USA program was originally built on the healthy political and economic relationship between the United States and certain countries. Talk about countries like the UK, Germany, Italy, Australia, Belgium, Croatia, etc.

At its core, a typical ESTA application permits someone to come into the US on three possible grounds. Firstly, for business – i.e., people coming for business lectures, meetings, checkups, investments, etc. Secondly, for tourism – i.e., people coming to learn and discover more about the US and many of its cultural wonders. And lastly, for transit – people looking to pass through the US while heading to another country.

When you’re granted an ESTA USA authorization, you can only use it for any of the purposes listed above and nothing else. For example, you can’t use an ESTA to study or work in the US, unlike with regular visa schemes like F or M or H-1B visa.

Also, an ESTA only allows you to enter and be in the US for a period of up to 90 days. Not a single day more. Beyond this, you will be driven out of the country. Although you’re free to reapply for reentry anytime within a two-year validity period, you can only do that from outside the US. So, if you run out your 90-day ESTA stay and need to renew your stay, you’ll need to first travel out of the US.

Having said all these, let’s now take a look at some of the advantages ESTA has over regular visas.

7 ways the US ESTA Visa scheme beats regular visas

  1. ESTA earns you a certain perception of security in the US

As you probably know from history, the US doesn’t joke with its security. The country constantly revamps its immigration system to ensure it doesn’t open its doors to entities perceived as threats.

Luckily, when you come through the ESTA USA, you’re instantly perceived as a ‘safe visitor’ – someone who’s not a threat to the US or its citizens.

While this may not mean much to you now that you’re reading it, you’ll come to realize the importance when you’re in the US. For instance, it’s common for police officers and law enforcement agents to randomly stop and check IDs in the US. If you’re a visitor, flashing a regular visa in the face of an officer may not completely exonerate you from suspicion. However, if an officer sees an ESTA authorization popping on your passport, he instantly assumes you’re less of a threat.

In a way, there’s a lesser potential for suspicion and harassment when you’re traveling with an ESTA USA.

  1. ESTA is fixed with a longer period of validity than most visa schemes

student visa (F or M) in the US may only last for as long as your program lasts, e.g., one or two years. A tourism or a visitor visa (B-2)may only afford you up to six months’ stay. While a work visa can allow you to stay for a number of months or years, depending on the length of your engagements.

In contrast to all these, an ESTA USA permit grants you a valid two-year entry into the US – for business and tourism.

  1. It is easier to get an ESTA

Although ESTA has its own long list of requirements you have to satisfy before being considered, it’s nothing compared to what a regular visa application would demand of you.

If you’ve applied for a regular US visa before, you’ll understand better how strenuous the process of document compilation can be.

In contrast, ESTA doesn’t ask you for so much. Just basic information like a regular social media website would ask you.

  1. It is faster to get an ESTA

ESTA USA takes just three days (72 hours) to be approved. If you’re denied (which is not very common), it takes three days also.

Contrastingly, regular US visas can take you up to 180 days before you’re even granted an interview at the consular’s office.

Imagine you need to attend an urgent business meeting, waiting for six months is definitely not an option.

Thankfully, ESTA saves you all that stress. It’s approved within a 72-hour period, within which time you can plan your travel itinerary and set out. No muss, no fuss.

  1. An almost zero chances of denial

Every year, more than five million US visa applications get denied. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of this harsh reality, we’re sorry.

But here’s the good news, you can change the narrative with ESTA. The ESTA USA has an almost 100% success rate. Although there are a few instances of denials, applications are always approved in most cases. This is reflected in the number of people that get approval messages in their ESTA status check inbox every year.

If you’re looking for a quick, secured US entry permit, go for ESTA. In almost all cases, you’ll likely be approved.

  1. ESTA Can be used for multiple travel purposes

ESTA is more or less a multipurpose travel permit. While regular US visas always work for singular purposes – F or M for study, H-1B for work, and B-2 for tourism – ESTA USA actually works for multiple purposes.

As earlier mentioned, you can use an ESTA authorization to enter the US for business, tourism, and transit purposes. Dissecting each of those purposes opens an endless list of possibilities you can come to the US for. Talk about hunting trips, mountaineering, vacation, business meetings, business lectures, contractual reasons, collaborations, business expansion/establishment, professional networking, attending events/conferences, taking a short recreational course of study, etc.

For instance, imagine you’re an artist. You could use your ESTA USA to come and explore the US (tourism), sign record deals (business purposes), host or perform at a show (business purposes), or pass through the US on your way to perform elsewhere (transit purposes). If you were using regular visas, you would need to apply for a separate visa type on each occasion.

  1. ESTA is cheaper

Finally, price.

Again, ESTA beats regular US visas on the pricing front. It costs around $14 to submit an ESTA application. In contrast, a US visa might cost you up to $180.

So, basically, if you’re looking to save costs, ESTA is the most reasonable option of the two.

Final words

ESTA is everything US visas fail at. Save yourself the stress and disappointments that are known to come with US visas by applying for an ESTA USA today.


I'm a passionate full-time blogger. I love writing about startups, how they can access key resources, avoid legal mistakes, respond to questions from angel investors as well as the reality check for startups. Continue reading my articles for more insight.

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