Do you know her? She’s crazy!

Yes I did know her Mr US customs officer sir, and yeah crazy isn’t too far off the mark when it comes to describing her, but crazy or not, it didn’t matter, he had stamped our passports and having passed through customs at JFK I was able to set foot upon American soil again for the first time in over 10 years.  It was good to be back.  It was good that both my gf and I had sorted our ESTA’s before flying.

ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization, and is (subject to eligibility) your way into the USA without applying for a visa.   Under the Visa Waiver Program (WVP), visitors to the USA are now required to apply for permission to enter the USA in the form of an ESTA, and pay the accompanying administrative fee.

ESTA became mandatory January 12, 2009. VWP applicants are required to complete a blue Customs declaration upon arrival in the U.S. whether or not they have an ESTA authorization.  VWP travelers are no longer required to complete the green I-94W card.

Source: US Customer and Boarder Protection Website (http://www.cbp.gov/)

Am I eligible for WVP?

Obviously read the terms on the website, but in a nutshell here an eligibility breakdown.

  • ESTA has been approved
  • Travel period is < 90 days
  • Onwards / Return ticket
  • You are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program approved countries…
Andorra Denmark Iceland Luxembourg San Marino Switzerland
Australia Estonia Ireland Monaco Singapore Taiwan *special terms apply
Austria Finland Italy Netherlands Slovakia United Kingdom
Belgium France Japan New Zealand Slovenia
Brunei Germany Latvia Norway South Korea
Chile Greece Liechtenstein Portugal Spain
Czech Republic Hungary Lithuania Republic of Malta Sweden

What do I need to provide?

Not a lot truth be told, it’s quite a simple process.  You only need to supply the following 3 things …

  1. Passport details
  2. Email address
  3. A method of payment – credit or debit card details.

How long does my ESTA last for?

Once approved and issued, your ESTA will last for 2 years from date of issue, OR until your passport runs out, if you passport expires before 2 years after your ESTA approval.  Within that period of 2 years (or until your passport runs out), you may enter and exit the US more than once.

How much does an ESTA cost?

Applying for your ESTA will cost $74 or roughly £50 via an agent, or you may wish to visit the State Department and Homeland Security Internet sites and apply to travel to the U.S. via an ESTA for a lesser fee.

Is it worth it?

Unequivocally yes, because without an ESTA you’re not getting in.  However I understand if you somewhat begrudge paying to enter the USA was a UK citizen when US citizens don’t have to pay anything to enter the UK.  Unfortunately it’s just one of those things, and in the grand scale of things the money paid for an ESTA is totally worth it when you get to see sights like this …

New York Skyline

That’s the famed Manhatten skyline.  I took this shot whilst on the Staten Island Ferry.  Admittedly we didn’t actually do anything on Statten Island except jump straight on another ferry back to Manhatten, but it was worth it just to see New York from the water, and get as close to the Statue of Liberty as we could that weekend – the weekend the statue and other major tourist attractions around the US with shut.

5pointz graffiti new york

Now this photo is one to keep, as sadly the artwork at 5Pointz is now all gone, covered over by a landowner looking to sell up.  It was quite the sight for a time though, attracting visitors and artists alike from all over the globe.  Even from the train over to Queens, it looked incredible.

Grand Central Terminal

The world’s busiest train station, how could I not visit Grand Central terminal?

Was it busy? Yep!

Did we catch a train?  Nope.

Why did we visit then?

To take in the architecture and try discover a few of the terminals little secrets. Secrets such as a hidden track and secret staircase leading to said track.

The top of the Rock New York

NYC from above, and no, not from the top of the Empire State Building.  Having decided we wants a good view of the Empire State Building, we instead decided to scale The Top Of The Rock @ Rockafeller Center to get incredible views over NYC at dusk.  We were made to wait for a bit, as our original time of ascent coincided with a thick layer of cloud, but once that cloud had dispersed and we finally rode the lift to the viewing platform the views were magnificent and the wait had all been worth it.

Coney Island wonder wheel

Ah Coney Island, my visit there was a long time dream finally realised.  Only about an hour from Manhattan island by train, if you’re visiting NYC in the warmer months of the year, I would implore you to visit Coney and take in the beach and fun fair for yourself … and obviously take on one the Wonder Wheels swinging carriages.

So that’s just a little info of HOW and WHY (New York specific admittedly) you should apply for an ESTA before visiting the USA.  Which reminds me, my current ESTA runs out in about 6 months, so maybe I should starting thinking about squeezing in another trip to the USA.  I’m thinking Vegas maybe :D