When attempting to get a non-immigrant visa to enter the United States, it is important to be aware of all of your options. Depending on your passport, you may be eligible for something called ESTA, or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. According to US Customs and Border Protection, ESTA is a system that helps determine eligibility for the visa Waiver Program electronically.
The Visa Waiver Program is a program that allows certain passport holders the ability to come into the United States for up to 90 days without needing any extra visa. In order to actually come into the United States, persons who are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program must process their information through the ESTA system. It is important to note that having an ESTA approved is not actually a visa. Rather, it is merely a confirmation that the person in question has the authorization to be in the United States without a specific visa.
In order for an eligible person to travel in the United States with ESTA, they are required to hold an enhanced secured passport with embedded chips. These are known as e-passports, and the majority of modern passports include this technology. These passports can be read by machines and contain specific information about the passport owner. If you do not have an e-passport, then you will not be able to travel in the United States even if you are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.
To learn if you are eligible for ESTA, visit the US Customs and Border Protection website. This will include a list of eligible countries and further instruction if you are interested in applying.