It’s no surprise that countries are tightening their border security after a recent spat of isolated terrorist attacks over the past few years. Although border security has increased worldwide, a few of the more popular travel destinations have implemented electronic travel authorization systems in the form of electronic (i.e. eVisas) and Visa Waivers to make it easier for many foreign nationals to enter for tourism and business travel. This guide provides information on where to get the appropriate travel authorization for popular destinations, as well as information on how much each travel authorization will cost, the validity period for each, and the type of uses permitted.
EU Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS)
It’s no surprise that Europe is one of the most popular destinations for tourism and business, yet it is one of the last to implement an electronic travel authorization system. ETIAS will roll out starting in 2020. The system is intended to streamline border security checks for business and tourist travelers from over 50 countries by allowing them to apply online for travel authorization before arriving in one of the EU or Schengen area countries. Once ETIAS is deployed, it will be the most widely used form of electronic travel authorization given the millions of yearly EU visitors.
Cost: €5 for individuals over the age of 18, free for travelers under the age of 18.
Where to apply: To be determined.
United States Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
In 2009, the United States deployed their Visa Waiver system,ESTA. Although the system has been under recent scrutiny over potential abuse and security concerns, ESTA has been in use for over seven years and is a valuable screening tool for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol, as well as serving as a source of revenue bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars per year to the U.S. government. Upon issuance, ESTA is valid for two years, or the date of passport expiration (whichever comes first), and can be used for visits of up to 90 days for tourism, business, transit or medical purposes. As of 2016, there are 38 countries whose citizens are eligible for the ESTA.
Cost: $14 USD if your application is approved, or just $4 USD if your application is denied.
Where to apply: Visit https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
Australian Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA) and Electronic Visitor (eVisitor)
Both the Australian eTA and eVisitor travel authorizations make it simple for travelers to apply online for entry into Australia. The eVisitor is for citizens of 36 different European countries who wish to visit Australia for business, tourism, or transit purposes. The eVisitor is valid for 12 months from the date of issue and can be used for up to three months per visit during the 12-month period. Best of all, the eVisitor does not impose any application fees. The Australian eTA is for citizens of just over a handful of countries and allows these business or tourist travelers to stay in the country for a maximum of three months per visit and is also valid for a period of 12 months from the date of issue.
Cost: $20 AUD per eTA application (non-refundable even if application denied) and free for eVisitor applicants.
Canada Electronic Travel Authorization (eTA)
The latest country to roll out an electronic travel authorization system is Canada. The Canadian eTA allows tourist, business, and transit travelers to apply online for an authorization which will be valid for five years, or until the date of passport expiration, and be used for stays of up to six months per visit for the purposes of tourism, business, or transit. As of 2016, there are over 50 countries whose citizens are eligible to apply for an eTA.
Cost: $7 CAD (non-refundable even if application denied)
Where to apply: Visit http://www.cic.gc.ca/english/visit/eta-start.asp
Indian e-Tourist Visa
The Indian eVisa is for travelers from nearly 150 countries. The Indian e-Tourist visa is issued for anywhere between 6 months to 10 years (for U.S. citizens). The maximum amount of time permitted per stay is 180 days and the e-Tourist Visa can be used for tourism, business, transit or medical purposes.
Cost: The cost ranges between $0 to $60 USD, depending on the citizenship of the traveler.
Where to apply: Visit https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/visa/Registration
Why are governments using eVisa and Visa Waivers? Visa Waivers and eVisa systems allow for greater ease of entry and exit at the border for travelers from various countries, as well as allow host countries to better monitor the flow of visitors through their borders. Most Visa Waivers and eVisas require the following:
- Applicants must have an electronic passport (i.e. with an electronic chip); this allows border authorities to link the passport of the traveler with the approved travel authorization, which is then checked at the border.
- Applicants must have an electronic passport which is valid on the date of arrival to the host country, and preferably have six months or more remaining before expiration.
- Applicants must from an eligible country.
- Applicants must not have a recent and / or serious criminal record.
- Applicants must be free from any contagious diseases.
- Applicants should not plan on staying in the host country for purposes of other then a short-stay for business, tourism or transit purposes.
Most application forms support multiple languages and accept online debit or credit card payments. Most Visa Waivers and eVisas are issued within 72 hours or less of submitting an online application. These electronic travel authorizations also share the same commonality in that they usually allow multiple entries on the same authorization. However, most cannot be renewed, thus applicants must reapply for travel authorizations once their previous approval has expired.
If you’re planning to visit the USA, Europe, Australia, Canada, or India, rest assured these countries make it easy to get the right travel authorization online in a fast and relatively low cost manner.