Citizens of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program can come to the United States without obtaining a visa from a U.S. Consulate. However, they have to apply for authorization to travel to the United States through the ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization. With the approved ESTA antrag (application) authorization, one can stay in the U.S. for a period of a maximum of 90 days at a time. The purpose of their travel can be only transit, business, tourism, or medical need. The ESTA is valid for 2 years and the fee for ESTA authorization is $14. Sometimes it requires reapplying for ESTA before the expiry of current ESTA. The big advantage of the ESTA antrag is that the majority of the ESTA applications are decided instantaneously and applicants receive an email informing them whether their ESTA antrag was approved or not. However, it is highly advised that a traveler should apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before their travel.
Most people from Visa Waiver Program participant countries withholding an ESTA would not ever apply for a B1 or B2 visa. But there may be some situations where people decide to apply for a B1 or B2 visa rather than using ESTA.
Reasons to apply for a B visa rather than ESTA:
The biggest advantage of a B1 or a B2 visa is that travelers can come to the U.S. for a longer period. So, people can apply for a B1 or B2 visa if they are coming to the U.S. for business or tourism and need to stay more than 90 days granted by ESTA. To explore business opportunities, to attend meetings with your potential clients, or to start negotiating contracts may take longer than 90 days that is why a business person can apply for a B-1 visa. Moreover, if for a family visit or for medical treatment that will take longer than 90 days, travelers can apply for a B-2 visa.
The maximum time travelers can stay in the U.S on a B1 or B2 visa is 6 months and the fee for a B visa is around $160. Opposite to the ESTA antrag, a B visa application requires an in-person interview with a consular officer will need to gather evidence and applicant will need to demonstrate their eligibility for the B visa.
Risk factors in B visa antrag:
There are some risk factors also for people from countries that have ESTA. If a person having ESTA apply for a B visa and their application is denied for some reason, most likely their ESTA authorization will be denied as well. Even if they have a valid ESTA and the application for a visa is denied, this is a changed circumstance and it requires re-applying for ESTA also. At that point, the only way to visit the U.S.A for business or tourism would be to re-apply for a B visa.
Thus, people from countries with ESTA should carefully consider whether they must apply for a B visa. When it is necessary to apply, they should prepare an application that demonstrates they meet the requirements for the B visa.