If you’re thinking of traveling to Florida on vacation you’ll probably be wondering whether you’ll need a visa. The good news is that, for many tourists, traveling to the USA without a visa is simple thanks to the ESTA travel program.
We’ve teamed up with Lara Scanlon the editor of Esta Form to bring you the low-down on exactly what you need to know before you go. Here’s what she told us:
So, what are the requirements for going to Florida?
“If you’ve got your heart set on visiting Florida or any other US state you should be able to make a simple online application for an ESTA. Each year millions of tourists visit Florida using the ESTA program for easy visa-free travel.
Basically it allows for hassle-free entry into the United States for business, tourism or transit purposes and grants a maximum stay of 90 days per visit. Citizens from 38 countries that are associated with the system can benefit from this programme, meaning the time-consuming visa application process (which often includes an appointment at the embassy) is no longer required.
This way you can enjoy a fantastic holiday to somewhere amazing without the stress associated with the traditional visa process. Wherever you decide to stay whether it’s Orlando, Miami, Destin or anywhere else in the United States, the ESTA will make your journey a whole lot easier.”
What does ESTA mean?
“ESTA stands for the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. It can be applied for by nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries. Be aware that you’ll need to apply if you’re entering the US for a visit even if it’s just to catch a connecting flight.”
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
“The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States for business or pleasure, for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.”
Who is eligible to submit an application?
You are eligible to apply for admission under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you:
- Intend to enter the US for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit
- Have a valid passport lawfully issued to you by a Visa Waiver Program country
- Arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier
- Have a return or onward ticket
- Travel does not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas
- Are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries
What will I need?
“In order for travel to be approved it is essential to have an electronic passport which contains all of your biometric information along with your passport photo. Your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your stay including the day of departure.”
Is there a fee to apply for an ESTA?
“Yes, you will need to pay a fee to apply for an ESTA. This is comprised of 2 parts; a processing fee and an authorization fee. All applicants requesting an ESTA are charged $4 for the processing of the application.
If your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, an additional $10 will be added to your payment method. If your authorization is denied, you are only charged for the processing of your application.
Does approval guarantee me admission to the US?
“If your ESTA is approved, this establishes that you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, but it does not guarantee that you are admissible to the United States.
Upon arrival in the US you will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer who may determine that you are inadmissible under United States law.”
Do I need a holiday visa for Orlando?
If you’re from one of the countries participating in the Visa Waiver Programme then no you don’t, you’ll just need to apply for the ESTA programme. The programme applies to the entire United States of America including Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands.
Do children need to apply?
Yes, ESTA is required for children and infants who are visiting or transiting under the Visa Waiver Program. If you’re a family you can submit a group of applications, you just need to set yourself up as the group contact person and fill in each application on behalf on any children.
You’ll have the option to add a new application to begin the process for a new applicant, you’ll also have the ability to pay for the application and to check the status on all applications within the group.”
How long is it valid for?
“As long as your ESTA authorisation is granted it will remain valid for a period of two years, however, if your passport expires before the two-year validity period your ESTA will also expire. It’s valid for multiple trips over this time but each trip can be no longer than 90 days – certainly enough time for you to have plenty of fun on your vacation!”
What’s the difference between ESTA and a normal visa?
“There are a few differences between these two applications. ESTA is only related to the Visa Waiver Program and applicable to citizens holding a passport from one of the 38 Visa Waiver Countries. Also ESTA is an online application process while a visa can only be applied for at a US embassy or consulate.
Other differences are that a visa allows you to stay for up to 6 months at a time and it’s valid for 10 years. With ESTA you’re only allowed to visit in 90 day intervals over a period of two years. Also with ESTA you can’t apply for jobs or to live in the United States.”
What if I’m visiting Orlando through a travel company?
“If you’re traveling to the US through a travel company you have two options. You can either complete your application yourself or you can ask the travel company for help and advice. Some companies will help you fill in the form, while others will point you in the right direction for making a new ESTA application.
What if my flight is delayed or cancelled?
If your flight is delayed or cancelled you don’t need to worry about your ESTA application. As it’s valid for 2 years you won’t need to re-apply if your flights are affected.
What happens if my application is denied?
If your ESTA application is denied you’ll get a Travel Not Authorized response. If you wish to continue with your travel plans you’ll need to visit the Department of State website at www.travel.state.gov for additional information about applying for a visa.
The denial of an ESTA only prohibits travel under the Visa Waiver Program and is not a determination of eligibility for a visa to travel to the United States. In the event that you are not approved, no court has jurisdiction to review an eligibility determination under ESTA.
How do I make an ESTA application?
“It’s easy! You just need to visit the US Customs and Border Protection website and make a new application. The application is all online and it’s normally approved within 72 hours.
If you’re thinking of travelling to the USA and you need advice on the best places to stay then contact Top Villas today. We offer a wide range of vacation homes in all of the best locations and resorts. Additionally, our dedicated concierge team can arrange any added extras you need such as great-value car hire.
Why not view our full collection of luxury villas in the United States?