The Definitive Guide: ESTA vs Visa for Chilean Travelers to the USA

The allure of the United States as a travel destination is universal, beckoning adventurers, entrepreneurs, and dreamers alike. From the bustling metropolises like New York and Los Angeles to the natural wonders of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon, the US promises experiences as diverse as its landscapes. For Chilean travelers, planning a trip to the US involves selecting the appropriate travel authorization. Understanding the differences between an ESTA and a visa is critical, as each has distinct requirements and offers different benefits.

Chile’s inclusion in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) presents Chilean passport holders with the opportunity to travel to the US for tourism, business, or transit purposes without a visa for trips of up to 90 days. Nevertheless, an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) remains a necessity for these visa-free travels. Let’s delve into the specifics of the ESTA, how it differs from a traditional visa, and why it is often the preferred choice for Chilean travelers.

Understanding ESTA for Chilean Travelers

The ESTA is not just an entry requirement but a streamlined travel facilitator for those eligible under the VWP. As a Chilean traveler, you may wonder why you should choose an ESTA over a visa. Here are some compelling reasons:

  • Convenience: Unlike the sometimes lengthy and complex visa application process, applying for an ESTA is done entirely online.
  • Speed: Processing of an ESTA typically occurs within 72 hours, while a visa can take weeks or even months.
  • Duration: An ESTA grants multiple entries over two years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first, allowing you to plan several visits to the US on the same authorization.

However, it is important to recognize that an ESTA does not suit every travel purpose. If you intend to study, work, or stay for more than 90 days, a visa may be required.

Qualifying for an ESTA

To qualify for an ESTA, first ensure that you are a citizen of a VWP country, such as Chile. You should plan to stay in the US for no longer than 90 days, and your purpose of visit should be within the stipulated reasons – tourism, business, or transit. Applying for an ESTA is a straightforward process:

  1. Fill out our easy-to-use online application form. The application takes about 10 minutes. Make sure to have your passport handy.
  2. Submit & Pay for your application. We accept all payment types. PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay & Credit Card.
  3. Get your ESTA emailed to you within 72 hours. We’ll email you your approved travel authorization and that’s it, you’re ready to go!

If you need your ESTA in a hurry, you can choose from our two expedited processing options. Simply select your add-on at checkout.

Differences Between ESTA and Visa

While an ESTA is suitable for many Chilean tourists and business travelers, it is not interchangeable with a visa. Here’s how the ESTA and visa differ:

Application Process

  • ESTA: Entirely online, fast and user-friendly.
  • Visa: Often requires a trip to the US Embassy or Consulate for an interview, paperwork, and longer processing times.

Purpose of Visit

  • ESTA: Limited to tourism, certain types of business, and transit.
  • Visa: Covers a broader range of activities including study, employment, and longer-term stays.

Duration of Stay

  • ESTA: Allows visits up to 90 days, multiple entries over two years.
  • Visa: Depending on the type, may allow longer stays and varied terms of entry.

A visa is a more appropriate choice for those looking to engage in activities not covered by the VWP, or for stays extending beyond the ESTA’s 90-day limit. Consistently, it’s crucial to weigh your travel objectives against these considerations.

FAQs for Chilean Travelers Regarding ESTA and Visas

  • Is a visa more flexible than an ESTA? Yes, a visa can cater to a wider array of purposes and stay durations.
  • Can an ESTA be renewed? An ESTA cannot be renewed; instead, you must apply for a new one once it expires or your passport is renewed.
  • What if my ESTA is denied? If your ESTA application is denied, you may apply for a visa to travel to the US.
  • Can I work in the US with an ESTA? No, employment is not permitted under the ESTA. You will require a specific work visa.


For Chilean travelers planning short-term trips for leisure or business, an ESTA is frequently the most efficient and convenient travel authorization. Remember that regardless of whether an ESTA or visa is more suitable for your planned activities in the US, early preparation is the key to ensuring a smooth entry. Safe travels, and we hope your journey to the United States is as fulfilling as it is memorable.

Should you be ready to commence your travel preparations, feel free to apply here for your ESTA or to learn more about the VWP countries.

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