This article was provided by iVisa, an online travel visa company.
If you’re planning a trip abroad — whether for vacation or to visit family — you might be able to bypass the rigamarole of the travel visa application process. As long as you don’t need to attend an in-person interview of any kind, third-party companies can do the footwork for you and help you apply for a travel visa. This process is done completely online, which is why we use the phrase “online travel visas.”
Below, we’ll outline the process for getting an e-Visa.
First, you’ll need to track down an agency that provides such a service. There are a number of them out there, but one of the more popular options is iVisa. Once you’ve navigated to their website, simply enter your country of origin and the desired destination into the appropriate fields. For the purposes of this tutorial, we’ll assume the applicant is from Australia and is traveling to the United States.
Luckily, Australia is one of the 40 countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which means, as long as the trip is less than 90 days and is related to business or tourism, the traveler doesn’t need to get a visa. They do, however, need to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before they depart, and that’s where companies like iVisa come in.
The applicant, in this case, will simply fill out the online application provided by the agency. Not long after completing the application, they’ll receive an email containing the ESTA. The traveler can use that document, together with their (unexpired) passport, to enter the United States. Note that the passport must be an e-passport — meaning it must have an embedded electronic chip — and it must remain valid for at least 6 months after their planned departure from the United States.
Now, if our hypothetical applicant was not from a VWP country — if they were from, say, Antigua and Barbuda — they’d need to apply for a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa, which means they’d have to attend an in-person interview. In this case, they wouldn’t be able to get an e-Visa to travel to the United States.
The timeline will depend on where the applicant is from and where they’re going. In the case of our Australian applicant, the process would be quite short. According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, travelers should apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours prior to their departure, but they may receive a response within seconds of submitting their application. This means if you apply through a company like iVisa, the process will likely be even faster, since they’ve transformed the application into an easy-to-read questionnaire that takes about 7 minutes to complete (according to their website).
Generally speaking, third-party agencies will tell you, ahead of time, how much the e-Visa costs, whether it’s a single- or multiple-entry visa, and what the next steps are.
Below, we’ll touch on a few of the more frequently asked questions regarding online visas.
What do I do if I lose my printed e-Visa?
Since the paperwork is usually emailed to you, you can simply print it out again. For this reason, it’s a good idea to keep that email in your inbox, as opposed to deleting it.
Is my credit card information safe?
It’s always a good idea to check the terms and conditions, which are usually linked at the bottom of the website. On iVisa’s home page, for instance, you’ll find a link labeled “Terms.” Once you click on that, you can search the page — using “command + F” on macs and “control + F” on PCs — for the keyword “credit. Press enter until you find a sentence with the relevant information. On iVisa, you’ll find, under the section Payment Processors, the following statement: “We do not store credit card data.” In this case, you know that the company isn’t keeping your information in a separate database.
What documents do I need for an e-Visa?
This will depend on where you’re going and where you’re coming from. Usually, the third-party company will tell you which documents you need in order to apply.
Ultimately, using a third-party agency like iVisa can save you a lot of time and energy when traveling abroad. But you want to make sure that this is indeed an option. As mentioned above, if you need to attend an in-person appointment, it may not be possible.
Are you looking to apply for a travel visa to the U.S.? Learn more with our B1/B2 visitor visa guide!