When is the best time to apply for an ESTA Authorization?

Exactly three days before your travel date.

Although there’s no specific recommended time to submit an ESTA US application, it’s best to submit three days ahead because ESTA takes approximately 72 hours to return a response.

So, let’s say you’re planning to travel or pass through the US on January 4, 2022. You should submit your ESTA application no later than January 1, 2022.

This holds true in all cases, regardless of the country you're coming from. Whether you're submitting an ESTA UK or ESTA Germany, you still have to apply at least 72 hours ahead.

Speaking of ESTA UK, below is a list of countries qualified to benefit from the ESTA US visa program. Check to see which countries are on the list. You never can tell; someone you know might need that information someday.

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, 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

Why do you need to apply for an ESTA US?

If you’re thinking of visiting the US at some point in your life, you know you will need a visa. Unfortunately, we all know how tedious obtaining one can be.

So the US government thought to exempt some countries from the stress and rigors of visa applications.

Enters ESTA US, ESTA UK, and the likes.

The whole point of ESTA, Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is to ensure citizens of the countries listed above can enter the US anytime they want without the rigors of applying for a regular visa. This unique system has facilitated business and tourism operations amongst the US and citizens of these countries.

So, regarding why anyone needs to apply for ESTA US. It's because it helps you navigate the US immigration system faster and easier in the following instances:

  1. When you need to enter the US for business: Say you want to run an import/export business in the US, expand your local business into the US, partner with a US brand, or kickstart a US franchise.
  2. When you need to enter the US for tourism: You may need to visit the US for the Strip if you're a gambler. The allures of New York might interest you so much that you want to see things for yourself.
  3.  You could come for a firsthand view of the Silicon Valley if you're the techy type.
  4. When you need to pass through the US: You may be heading to a separate destination but need to stop briefly in the US. Maybe to change flight or break your trip. For that to happen, you’ll need an ESTA online visa. It’s a form of transit visa that allows you to spend a few hours in the US before heading to your original destination.

Applying on the same day you want to travel: Is it possible?

Generally speaking, you can apply for ESTA UK anytime you want. In fact, if you want, you may apply for ESTA US a few minutes to when you intend to travel.

However, prepare your mind for a few disappointments when you apply this late. As we said, it normally takes up to 72 hours for ESTA to be approved. If you apply a few minutes to when you want to travel, that won't make your application any faster than it ought to be. It will still take the usual 72 hours to get a response.

Although there are instances when you might get a response in one day, it's still not advisable to apply late.

To think you can even hire an agency for a few dollars to submit and manage an application for you, why would you want to apply late.

Just do it and get on with it. It’s better to have your ESTA online visa approved one week before the travel date than to have to reschedule your trip because ESTA is taking too long to arrive.

Is an ESTA application always a 72-hour response period thing?

Unfortunately, NO. ESTA US is not always a 72-hour thing. There are times when your ESTA UK application might take longer than 72 hours. In fact, I’ve seen instances where it took almost four days before a response arrived.

This is another reason why it’s good to apply early.

It is believed that the ESTA US program has a peak period – a period when applications are more than usual. This period falls between March and August. Applying for ESTA UK around this time means you’re ready to join the crowd.

What happens if my ESTA is denied a few days to my travel date?

Again, this is another question that exemplifies the importance of applying for ESTA US early.

In an instance where you apply for ESTA UK, and your application gets rejected, you'll need to apply for a regular visa immediately. This usually takes between one and two months, and it requires submitting a truckload of documents. Not to mention the visa interviews you have to attend in between.

Imagine you have a trip slated for February 21, then you apply for ESTA on February 15. Surprisingly, your application got denied. And now you have to apply for a regular visa, which might take months.

What do you think has become of your trip? Definitely off.

To avoid these kinds of situations, it’s best to apply for an ESTA US visa months before you even plan to travel.

Thankfully, an ESTA UK has a two-year validity period. So even if you apply and get an ESTA US visa today, it will still be valid months later when you need to travel.

ESTA Status check: Verifying the validity of your ESTA authorization

We said in the previous section that it’s possible to apply and get an ESTA US visa even when you aren’t planning on travel.

Now, let’s say you decide to do that; how will you know how long you have left on your ESTA when you finally want to travel. Or better still, how will you know whether your ESTA UK visa is still valid by that time?

Use the ESTA status check feature.

On the official website of the ESTA US service, you will see an online checking service that allows you to enter your passport number and date of birth to retrieve your ESTA status details.

After supplying these details, you’ll get a display showing one of the following messages:

  • ESTA Authorization Approved – This tells you that you have a valid ESTA authorization, which you can use to enter the US.
  • Application Pending – This tells you that the ESTA officials are running a series of background checks on you.
  • ESTA Application Expired – This tells you that your ESTA UK is no longer valid and that you need to submit another application before traveling.
  • Application Not Found – You get this response when you input wrong details on the site.
  • ESTA Application Not Authorized – This tells you that your application is denied and that you’ll need to apply to the US embassy for a relevant visa.

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