Since 9/11 it has become more and more inconvenient to visit USA has been my personal experience. Now, having to apply for an ESTA in advance, and pay $14 for it, despite it is not at all a VISA did not make me happy.
I just came home from New York, flying there with British Airways, via Heathrow. I must say that visiting USA has not been easier and less bureaucratic in a long time. ESTA replaces the green paper form in a simple way.
I needed to:
- Apply for the ESTA online in advance, pay $14, authorizatized immediately
- A few days before travelling, give some personal information to British Airways online
- Show my passport in Heathrow, and answering Yes to the question “do you travel on ESTA?”
- Show my passport in JFK, saying I am there on vacation
- Fill in the customs form that everybody entering USA has to hand in
- Just show my passport when leaving USA
What i did not have to do (which has happened before ESTA) was:
- Being interviewed in EU airport by USA security personell
- Extra/separate security check for USA flights in EU airport
- Fill out the green form and hand over to US immigration
- Keep, and upon leaving USA hand in, the little green paper from the green form, that used to be stamped to passport
From an integrity point of view, ESTA may be questionable. And paying $14 is more expensive than $0 which used to be the Visa Waiver program price. But, I like to be able to travel with just my passport, and not doing paperwork on the way. At no point I needed to show the printout of my ESTA authorization or otherwise give away my ESTA authorization number or anything.
This is of course just my personal experience from one single trip.
New York, as always, was fantastic. I recommend getting up in the Rockefeller Center “top of the rock” rather than Empire State Building. The view is better because you can walk around on a platform where you get an almost 360 degree view instead of having to walk around the whole building. Queues were much shorter (basically none at all). You can see both Empire State building and all of Central park from Rockefeller Center (you dont want to photograph Rockefeller Center from Empire State Building). If you smuggle a small tripod up to Rockefeller Center and use it descretely you can take amazing night pictures from there.