Updated: Mar 11, 2020
Determining when to apply for ESTA gives applicants a good idea of timing on when to start an ESTA application. If approved, an ESTA is issued for a period of two years or the date of the applicant’s passport expiry, whichever date is sooner. Thus, if an applicant is planning multiple short trips to the United States over the course of two years, then the applicant may be better suited to wait closer to the time of their first departure before applying for ESTA.
Alternatively, if an applicant is planning only one trip to the United States over the next two years, then the applicant can apply whenever he / she chooses so long as the ESTA application is submitted at least 72 hours prior to departure as this is the maximum amount of time it takes for CBP to process an ESTA application.
Applicants wishing to apply for an ESTA hours before their departure to the United States are risking disruption of their travel plans, should the applicant be deemed inadmissible for travel to the United States due to a pending or denied ESTA. A U.S. bound visitor will have their ESTA checked before boarding a U.S. bound aircraft as well as on arrival to a U.S. destination.
If an individual’s ESTA application is denied, the traveler will need to apply for a U.S. visa if they wish to enter the United States. Thus, to err on the side of caution, it is recommended U.S. bound visitors apply for their ESTA at least eight weeks prior to their departure to the United States to allow for any unforeseen circumstances that may arise with obtaining ESTA approval. This allows an individual with a denied ESTA with around eight weeks of time to apply for a U.S. visa, which usually takes anywhere from four to six weeks to process depending on the applicant’s selected U.S. embassy and personal circumstances.
If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, you may be eligible to obtain an ESTA for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA