I recently had the worst experience anyone eager to visit the United States can have. I am a Spanish citizen and have never travelled outside of Europe - this was going to be my first ever experience on a long flight.
The first thing I decided to do was to figure out how to get a visa for the US. So I visited the government website: www.travel.state.gov , full of hopes and dreams. The procedure seemed quite straight forward - I needed to proof I am a Spanish citizen who is educated, working, I have family and relatives in Spain and all the intention to visit the US purely for touristic purposes.
Everything seemed easy; I gathered all the documentation needed and wanted to book the interview.
This is when my hell started - I had to wait 3 whole weeks for a 10min (what I thought) interview.
Skipping to the relevant part - when I went to my interview at the appointed hour, I had to wait almost two more hours for my turn to come - turned out there were a lot!! of people with the same appointment date and hour. So I waited patiently just to get rejected because the interviewer decided something was wrong with my work contract....Really?!?
Ignoring the part when I couldn't realize if I am more upset or angry - I started looking for ways to get a visa, even if I had to pay extra, I couldn't afford to even think I am not going to make the planned trip.
This is when I stumbled on this web: http://www.estavisaus.org/esta-application and the sun started shining again! Turns out Spain is part of a special Visa Waiver program, so I don't actually need a visa, because of this ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. So I applied online, it was easy and absolutely straightforward. And after all, I have been through - a true value for money. I had to fill in my personal details, answer to 4 yes or no questions and in less than a day I got an email confirmation with my ESTA!!!! I couldn't believe it, it really could not have been easier!
I know many of you that are not frequent travelers might experience the same ridicule when applying for a tourist visa at the US Embassy, so no worries!!! If your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program (check it out here: www.estavisaus.org) you can do the same! Apply online in literally, less than 5 minutes and get your email confirmation the same day.
(The web says up to 48h, but they were actually quite fast, which helped big time!)
I hope no one goes through what I experienced, but if you ever do - there is the ESTA to save the day!