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What's more convenient, a VISA or an ESTA?

ESTA VISA: Is it more convenient for you to process an ESTA application or to apply for a VISA?

The ESTA is a very simple process with which you will be able to obtain a travel permit to the United States online without the need to go to the United States Embassy in London.

However the ESTA does not have such varied options as a VISA, for which I recommend that you cautiously consider the benefits and inconveniences of each option.

What is more convenient for you, applying for an ESTA application or applying for a VISA?

If you are preparing your next visit to the United States you will know that you must obtain a travel permit before departing from the United Kingdom.

There are 2 possibilities for obtaining the obligatory “travel permit”:

  • Applying for a Visa in the United States Embassy
  • Processing an ESTA application via the Internet.

The ESTA is a very simple process with which you will be able to obtain a travel permit to the United States online without the need to go to the United States Embassy in London.
However the ESTA does not have such varied options as a VISA, for which I recommend that you cautiously consider the benefits and inconveniences of each option.

There are various details to bear in mind when you take your decision, here I am detailing the most important:

Duration of your trip: If the duration of the trip to the United States is to be 90 days or less, you will be able to choose between an ESTA application or a Visa according to your convenience.
If the duration of your trip will surpass the 90 days you will not be able to opt for the ESTA and you will be obligated to apply for a VISA.
 
Objective of your trip: A Visa will allow additional possibilities which are not available to those who apply for their travel permit with the ESTA. In the list that you will find below you will find the most typical cases and my recommendation about which system to choose.
 
Tourist Trips: If you travel to the United States for tourism for a period equal to or less than 90 days you will be able to opt so much for the ESTA as for a USA Visa. I recommend that you apply for an ESTA due to its simplicity and convenience.
 
Trips for medical treatments: If you are travelling to have a medical treatment of short duration and you are sure that you will be in good enough health conditions to return home within 90 days, I recommend that you process an ESTA application due to its simplicity and convenience.
 
Trips for Business: If you travel to the United States for business you will be able to process your application with the ESTA, I have here some typical examples:
Purchase or sale of real estate.

  • Visits to professional exhibitions or corporative events.
  • Signing of contracts, so much in a personal name as in the name of a company.
  • Studies: Course of short duration, exams, masters and seminars.

Transit towards other destinations outside of the United States: If your visit to the United States is for transit, this is to say that you are travelling to the United States as a connection to fly to another country and not as a final destination you will be able to opt to apply for your permit with the ESTA.

Motives of trips that are not accepted under the ESTA:

If you are travelling under any of the following reasons then you must apply for a VISA in the American Embassy as none of these are recommendable (nor in general, accepted) under the regulation of the ESTA.

Working Trips: Those who intend to be compensated for their work during their stay in the United States are obligated to apply for a Visa.
Even in the cases where their professional labour is going to be executed within a few hours, for example, reporters, artists, etc. The individuals that process their travel application through the ESTA do not have the legal permission to be able to carry out any working activity.
 
Trips for Studies: If you are going to travel to study, for example study a course or any other academic activity of medium or long duration then you must apply for a Visa. This is extremely important if there is any possibility of following on with your studies once you have completed the course that was the reason for your original trip because the possibility of extending your stay afterwards is quite accessible if you are already in the situation of having a study VISA. In the contrary, if you process your travel application with the ESTA, you will not be able to renew the period or extend your duration once the 90 days since your entry into the United States are up.
 
Marriage: A travel application processed through the ESTA does not allow in any case the possibility of lengthening, renewing or changing the reason of your trip nor modifying its status. If you are going to marry in the United States it is imperative that you initiate the application for a VISA as with the ESTA you will not be able to apply, in any case, for residency, nationalisation or an extension of your stay. I recommend that in this case you decline a Visa, which would allow you to apply for a modification of your status as resident afterwards.
 
Emigration: If you are going to travel to the United States to emigrate to the country, your only reasonable option is to apply for a Visa that allows you to update your status to resident and eventually to citizen The ESTA does not allow any type of modification of your type of visit and it would not allow you to apply for residency or obtain your Green Card, not even as a long term visitor or resident.
 
Nationalisation of naturalisation: If you are travelling to the United States with the intention of converting yourself into a Citizen of the United States then your only viable option is to apply for a Visa as the ESTA does not allow any type of modification or updating of your status and it would not allow you to apply for nationalisation.

Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.