What is the difference between a visa and ESTA?

Both documents are U.S. travel authorizations. They are fundamentally different, and their main differences are as follows:

  1. The visa is granted by an American embassy or consulate in the country where the traveler resides, while the ESTA is an electronic authorization obtained online;
  2. Each type of visa has its own specific conditions and validity period, while the ESTA allows short stays of less than 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program.
  3. Obtaining a tourist visa involves a consular interview and the presentation of additional documents, while for ESTA: simply fill in the online form and pay the ESTA fee.

Is ESTA a type of visa for the USA?

No, the ESTA authorization is not a visa for the United States. The ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that must be obtained before boarding a plane to the USA. This procedure allows you to travel to the U.S. without a visa, subject to certain ESTA eligibility conditions.

ESTA authorization does not guarantee entry into the United States. Travelers in possession of an ESTA must undergo a brief interview with a customs officer on arrival at the U.S. border. It is only after this interview that the traveler is authorized to enter and remain on American territory.

Who can travel to the USA with an ESTA and without a visa?

Only nationals of member countries of the Visa Waiver Program can travel to the USA without a visa, with a simple ESTA authorization. To obtain their certificate, travelers must complete the ESTA form online. ESTA processing takes a minimum of a few minutes and a maximum of 72 hours.

Is the price of the ESTA different from the price of the visa?

Different fees apply for the ESTA or the USA visa: