Tourist Visa + ESTA

What is a tourist visa

Everyone traveling to United States is obliged to have a valid travel authorization. The only exception are Canadian citizens that can travel freely. If you won’t hold an approved visa or ESTA when arriving to the borders or airport, you won’t be allowed to enter the United States.

Tourist visa doesn’t allow you to work or study in USA, but you can attend a business meetings or events.

ESTA / Visa Waiver program

Technically not a tourist visa but has the same functionality. It is an online travel authorization (Electronic System for Travel Authorization = ESTA) allowing citizens of selected countries to visit USA as a tourists. It is valid for 2 years and allows you to visit USA multiple times during this time period, each visit for maximum of 90 days. If your passports expires before the 2-year period, ESTA will become invalid and you will have to apply again.

United States Tourist visa types

It’s not so long ago when the only way was to arrive to US embassy and handle everything in person. Fortunately USA implemented online travel authorization for some countries few years ago.

Interested in visa allowing you to work?

ESTA

The easiest to get tourist authorization and only citizens of selected countries are able to apply.

ESTA is valid for 2 years during which, you are allowed to enter USA multiple times for maximum of 90 consecutive days. It allows you to travel for leisure or business but not to work or study.

Disadvantage compared to regular tourist visa is that in case you will be denied entering the country, you are not able to dispute this decision. However if you completed the application truthfully, this is happening very rarely.

Visitor Visa

This visa is more complicated to obtain than ESTA but majority of nationalities are required to use this one as they are not eligible for ESTA. Visitor visa is also more expensive (160 USD, approx. 140 EUR/126GBP).

Visitor visa validity depends on your nationality and ranges from 1 month to 10 years and allows single or multiple entires. You can choose also between B2 (tourism) and B1 (business) subtypes.

Countries eligible for ESTA

Andorra

Australia

Austria

Belgium

Brunei

Chile

Czech Republic

Denmark

Estonia

Finland

France

Germany

Greece

Hungary

Iceland

Ireland

Italy

Japan

Latvia

Liechtenstein

Lithuania

Luxembourg

Malta

Monaco

Netherlands

New Zealand

Norway

Poland

Portugal

San Marino

Singapore

Slovakia

Slovenia

South Korea

Spain

Sweden

Switzerland

Taiwan

United Kingdom

B2 Visitor visa validity

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:US_visa_validity_period.png

How to apply for the tourist visa

ESTA

The fastest and the easiest visa to obtain. Just complete an online form with your personal details and passport number, and in less than 24 hours, you will have your approved visa delivered via email.

Visit visa

To get the B1 or B2 Visitor visa, consult the embassy in your country.

The general process is following:

  1. Complete DS-160 form and upload your personal photo
  2. Schedule interview at the US embassy
  3. Attend the interview

The official ESTA application: ESTA (EN only)

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