ESTA is Not a Visa
The difference between ESTA and a U.S. visa is:
- ESTA is only for Visa Waiver travelers and is only related to “travel authorization”
- A U.S. visitor visa is necessary for any other visitor not entering under the Visa Waiver Program.
ESTA is an online application system where the Visa Waiver traveler can apply for a travel authorization him or herself. An approved travel authorization is a new requirement to the Visa Waiver program since January 12, 2009 for entry to the U.S. via air or sea. However, an approved authorization does not guaranty entry at the U.S. border.
A U.S. visitor visa is either a B-1 Business Visa or B-2 Tourist Visa. The visa process can only be carried out abroad, and the visitor must physically apply at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The visa process involves several additional steps and costs in comparison to the ESTA. For the time being passengers can expect to also complete Form I-94W (the green form). Eventually ESTA will replace Form I-94W.
Also, the Form I-94 and B-1/B-2 Visa Extension of Stay Package includes the Form I-94 Information Guide and the B-1 Business and B-2 Tourist Visa Extension of Stay. The Form I-94 and B-1/B-2 Visa Extension of Stay Package contains information about how to replace a lost or stolen Form I-94/I-94W and how to extend a B-1/B-2 visitor visa.
J-1 Exchange Visitor Visa General Information: The United States government issues J-1 Visas to individuals who take part in a wide range of exchange visitor programs sponsored by schools, businesses, and a variety of organizations and institutions. These programs are envisioned for business and industrial trainees, scholars, students, international visitors, teachers, research assistants, and those on cultural missions.
K-1 Fiancée and Fiancé Visa Information: The K-1 Visa, also known as the K1 Fiancée Visa, may be used by United States citizens who wish to bring their prospective husbands or wives to the United States with the intention of getting married. Minor children of fiancées can also accompany them to the United States as they can be issued K-2 Visas.