ESTA, which stands for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is a great low-cost method of obtaining authorization to enter the USA.
Not only is this online application easy to use, as it only requires information to be submitted online, but also it is incredibly quick – as the application should not take more than 10 minutes to complete. You will receive the results of your application within 72 hours, so you will know fairly soon if your authorization has been approved or denied. Even though it is a fast and easy application process, we recommend travellers to not submit their processing request last minute. We recommend that all travellers submit their processing request at least 72 hours before leaving for the United States.
Many people may assume that this kind of speed and simplicity could end up costing them more money. Some may even be willing to pay for this kind of expedient service, However that is entirely unnecessary – this is one of the cheapest ways to enter the USA. While a visa generally costs around $160, prices can also regularly go up to $190. This kind of visa often requires applicants to fill out forms online, visit an embassy, leave their passport, and pay to have it returned to them. This is a significant amount that needs to be considered when budgeting for a trip. By contrast, the governmental ESTA cost is only $14 (applying with private companies may increase the cost because of review and processing fees).
ESTA applicants enjoy the benefits of a quick and efficient service as well as saving a significant amount of money. It is hard to see the downside of that system. A group application entails the same price per applicant; because each traveller will need his or her own separate travel authorization.
There are very few downsides to using ESTA, and saving so much time and money can only be considered a huge advantage.
As of August 2019, the cost of an ESTA is $14, however, the cost of an ESTA may be increased from $14 to $21 in a not so distant future (note that third-party service providers may charge extra for their services).
As published on Skift, Brand USA’s path to reauthorization may look slightly brighter, by increasing the cost of an ESTA. They were previously denied funding back in February 2018, but this proposed bill may give Brand USA the funding they need. The new allocation structure of the total may then look like this: $4 to Customs and Border Protection (CBP); $7 to Brand USA, and $10 to the general fund.