ESTA for entry to the USA: Beware of rip-offs

The ESTA for the USA - Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

The article is about their experience with the ESTA when entering the United States of America. There are many third party companies on the Internet that make money from ESTA applications. It explains what you have to pay attention to and what is needed for an application.

Since the beginning of 2009 the United States offers a new way to enter the country. The ESTA VISA Waiver program eliminates the need for travelers to go to a U.S. embassy to apply for a visitor visa. However, currently only 38 countries participate in this program. Among others, but also Germany, Austria and Switzerland, as well as many other European countries. Citizens from non-participating countries still need to apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. embassy. However, since the changeover, sites have appeared on the Internet again and again that submit the application for the traveler to the official site and then forward the approval. This service is always overcharged.

What is ESTA?

The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows for easy entry into the United States. An application should be submitted via the official site at least 72 hours before departure to be on the safe side. On this site an application always costs 14$ and is valid for two years after approval. However, since its introduction, there are many unofficial providers, some of which are listed ahead of the official site on search engines. Travelers visiting the United States for the first time often do not know about this scam and enter their data on one of these sites. Before my trip to the USA I unfortunately also fell for such a site and paid 49 Euros. On vacation I was finally enlightened by a friend. Recently in my internship I was given the opportunity to create a website. The topic was left to me and I quickly decided that I would like to report on the ESTA. This led to the creation of the Estaformular, which is designed to assist travelers with additional information.

How do the unofficial ESTA sites work??

Often the design of the pages is similar to the official ESTA page of the U.S. Government. There is a form, in which different personal data such as name, passport number or also the place of residence are inquired. These fields are also available on the official site. The data is simply recorded by these sites, saved and then re-entered on the official site. As soon as the application is approved, one is usually informed about it. However, these sites let their service cost quite a bit. The most expensive provider is currently charging 79.90.

How does the official ESTA site work??

As soon as you have called up the page, you can set the desired language at the top of the page. After that you can start filling out the application form. Next to each field there is a function to call additional help. Once the data is entered, you submit the form for verification. If there are form errors somewhere, such as special characters, one is made aware of it and must adjust the data. As soon as all data is in the correct form, the application must be paid for. A credit card is necessary for this. Unfortunately, it is not possible to pay by PayPal, bank transfer or check. Those who don't have a credit card can buy a prepaid credit card at a kiosk or gas station, for example, or ask a friend to take over the payment.

Is it useful to have the data checked by a third party provider?

Additional verification of data from a third party provider is not necessary. To be on the safe side, however, you can have a second person check the fields again. Most fields in the application are self-explanatory. Sometimes, however, questions can arise in special cases, such as double names.

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