ESTA Application Overview

All foreign visitors must apply to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The traveler must get permission through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding an air or sea carrier heading for the United States. However, the need for a visa is waived. In this article, we'll go through all the details of the ESTA application you need to know.

You must be aware that the whole process is done through an electronic system for travel authorization through which the United States refers people to obtain ESTA benefits. This is done thanks to the maintained unofficial relations that allow those with an enhanced secure passport to apply online and get in contact with immigration services, in which they will understand the entry rules of the country after they have an approved travel authorization.

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What Is an ESTA Application?

America is a well-liked location for visitors, business people, and travelers. Usually, visitors from abroad must get a U.S. visa to gain permission to enter the nation, but the Visa-Free Entry Program offers an alternate route for citizens of 40 nations. These passengers can opt for a US ESTA to enter the country.

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What Should We Know about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

Certain nations have a treaty with the United States, so the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA, offers visitors a streamlined online application process. The VWP currently has 40 participating nations. However, this number fluctuates over time. You may obtain a US ESTA authorization relatively fast rather than going through the arduous visa application process. Keep in mind that before taking a flight to the U.S., citizens of the VWP member nations must obtain an entrance visa.

The administrative agency that controls the granting of US ESTA permits under the visa-free program is the Ministry of Internal Security. Those nations that can use the program have moved through the collaboration stage with the U.S. government and are considered at low risk. However, obtaining a USA ESTA does not guarantee entry into the USA. Due to regulations and the status of COVID-19, passengers must now visit government websites to determine their eligibility for admission.

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The ESTA Application Process

Anyone considering traveling to the U.S. must complete an ESTA form, but you should first make sure you qualify before going to the US ESTA portal. The trip's goal should be for private reasons, transitory, or business-related, not job-related.

You shouldn't apply if you have a valid U.S. visa, and your stay should be restricted to 90 days. Before beginning to complete the comprehensive US ESTA questionnaire, people should be aware that everything must be written in English. The application must be completed separately for each passenger.

72 hours before boarding a plane or ship to the United States is the ideal time to apply. This is because the U.S. government typically takes this time to assess your application, so you shouldn't purchase an airline ticket until your application has been approved.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection may consider your application before the deadline if the visitor needs to be in the U.S. as soon as possible and their aircraft is scheduled to depart sooner than 72 hours from the moment they place the application. In this situation, they should determine if they have been approved by checking the ESTA Visa status online.

You'll need the application number to determine your application status. This is your personal, non-transferable number. You must log in to your account using your passport number and personal information.

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What Do People Need to Gather for the ESTA Application?

The online ESTA application is a pretty thorough document. Along with your basic biographical information, you will also need to supply details about your employment, travel plans, and responses to several clarifying questions.

Then, the U.S. administration will take your application into account after you submit it. Furthermore, the Customs and Border Control Service is meant to search through several international databases. The primary source of confirmation is the terrorism screening database. Furthermore, the people in charge of this screening will look through the CDC and Department of Health's databanks. Passports stolen or lost are also verified, and the USA ESTA database is searched for those who were previously turned down. CBP will specifically look into expedited visa revocation and deportation.

ESTA Application Papers

Mandatory Information for Obtaining ESTA Authorization

The following details need to be provided by the applicant:

• Full name

• Gender

• Aliases, if applicable

• Date and place of birth

• Nationalities and passports

• History of previous nationalities

• The passport's expiration date

• Parent's names

• Name, phone number, and address of the emergency contact

• Employer's contact number

• Points of contact in the United States (a person, business, or hotel)

• Whether or not the applicant is a Global Entry participant

Criteria for Denying Applications

Additionally, applicants must answer the following questions with a yes or no.

Applications will be rejected if the applicant has any of the following conditions:

• A physical or mental condition that puts others in danger.

• A history of drug abuse.

• Contagious illnesses include cholera, diphtheria, tuberculosis, the plague, yellow fever, ebola, or severe acute respiratory illnesses.

• Has ever been guilty of a crime related to substantial property damage, serious injury to another person, or serious harm to a police officer.

• Has ever broken the law concerning illicit narcotics use, possession, or distribution.

• Has lied or misrepresented oneself or other people to gain admission into the United States or has helped others do so.

• Has had a U.S. visa rejected or been refused entrance at a U.S. port of entry.

• Intends to work in the United States or has previously done so without obtaining authorization from the U.S. government.

ESTA Application Deny

Third-party Websites

Some websites offer to finish ESTA applications for a fee, which is frequently higher than the amount necessary by the U.S. government. Any passengers meeting the VWP program's requirements may access and apply through the official U.S. government website. When the necessary U.S. government cost was implemented, it made preventing such "ESTA fee" more challenging. This is because earlier public education campaigns emphasized spreading the concept that ESTA applications were free and that anybody demanding money was an third party. Some websites utilizing official-sounding web domains and publishing emblems that mimic the U.S. government mark, third-party websites attempt to appear authentic.

The website might or might not include a brief disclaimer stating that it is not affiliated with the American government.

Then, the same form must still be filled out by the passengers even if one of the third-party websites is utilized. There have been worries that third-party websites may be exploited for credit card fraud, identity theft, or the spread of malware.

The Differences Between a US VISA Waiver Program and a US ESTA

You will find three nation groups consisting of the following categories. Five nations are included in the first group and are not subject to U.S. visa regulations. The second group consists of nations covered by the visa-free entry program, which allows them to travel to the U.S. via the US ESTA, and the final category consists of all other nations. They require a typical U.S. visa.

While a U.S. visa may be obtained through an online application, you must visit the U.S. Embassy and schedule an appointment to receive one. There are various uses for a typical U.S. visa. You may apply for a job, study, or another visa form. On the other hand, if you are entering the nation for transit, business, or tourism, you can apply for a USA ESTA.

Passport Restrictions

Only some travelers are eligible to apply for a USA ESTA. That's why for VWP, there are stringent passport requirements. A digital chip that contains the person's biometric data must be present in every passport that satisfies the standards. Moreover, a computer-readable area must be included on the passport's biographical page.

Electronic Passport

All travelers covered by the ESTA VISA program from 2016 should have an electronic passport with an integrated electronic chip. The process will be much more straightforward if they have a photo printed rather than on a biographical page.

Passport Validity

Except where country-specific agreements grant waivers, travelers entering the United States must have passports valid for at least six months exceeding their premeditated stay. The Visa Waiver Program requires that your passport be valid for at least 90 days if you plan to travel without a visa.

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VWP Nations

If you are a tourist from a VWP nation and your passport does not satisfy these specifications, you should consider getting a new VWP passport from your nation of citizenship. If not, you cannot travel under the VWP and must seek a visa to enter the United States with a valid passport.


Travelers may start applying for ESTAs in August 2008, and as of January 12, 2009, authorization was required for all air and maritime travel. Since January 20, 2010, airlines that don't demand an ESTA from customers using the VWP risk being penalized.

Firstly, ESTA could be downloaded free of charge from the website of U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Following the Travel Promotion Act, CBP started collecting a $4 administrative charge on September 8, 2010, and an extra $10 fee, if the application was accepted, to finance the Corporation for Travel Promotion (also known as Brand USA), for a total of $14 for each authorized ESTA. The second charge was raised to $17 on May 26, 2022, totaling $21 for each accepted ESTA. This price was criticized when it was first established, but the European Union later intended to add the requirement for electronic travel permission called ETIAS for a fee of €7.

Beginning on October 1, 2022, ESTA also becomes necessary for land entry.

Foreign Countries Eligibles for ESTA Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program electronic system for travel will allow citizens of 40 nations to visit the United States as of May 2022.

Visitors covered by the VWP are permitted a 90-day stay in the U.S., which also covers any time spent in Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, or other Caribbean islands.

People who have visited certain middle-eastern countries, as well as individuals who are dual citizens of these countries, are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP entry rules as of 2015. However, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive this ineligibility for anyone who visited these nations on official business, in the military, as a journalist, humanitarian worker, or diplomat. People not qualified for the VWP may apply for a standard visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

Visa Waiver Program Application Cost

ESTA applications now cost $21. Every passenger is required to fill out an ESTA application and pay the associated charge. All popular payment options, including MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover (accepted only with JCB or Diners Club), and PayPal, are accepted on the application website.

Fee Components

Application Fee

Payment for application processing is required of all applicants obtaining an electronic travel authorization. The cost is $4.00.

Authorization Fee

An extra $17.00 will be charged to your payment method if your application is accepted and you are given permission to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Therefore, you will only be charged by CBP for the application processing if your electronic travel authorization is rejected.

ESTA Application Fees

ESTA Visa Waiver Program Validity

Applications for an approved ESTA are valid for two years or until the passport expires, whichever occurs first. You can visit the U.S. several times without submitting new ESTA applications. Some of the entry rules are the following.

You are only allowed to stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days while you have a granted ESTA. Even if you are permitted to use the same ESTA again, you should leave enough time between trips so that the CBP officer does not suspect you are attempting to establish residency in the country. The amount of time between visits is not regulated according to such terms.

When to Get a New ESTA

If any of the following apply to you:

• If you obtain a new valid passport, including a crisis or temporary document;

• If you change your gender or your name

• If you either renounce or change your citizenship

• If you must alter any "Yes" or "No" replies you made on the application.

Taiwan Relations Act Implications

The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program exempts people from several Australian and Asian countries from an ESTA or visa requirement. However, they must complete Form I-736 before traveling. If they submit Form I-736 for temporary entrance to the Northern Mariana Islands, Chinese citizens also do not require a visa according to such laws.

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda

The Visa Waiver Program only accepts applications from countries that the United States refer to as optimal. Other provisions for visa-free travel for citizens of Canada and Bermuda are included in the Immigration and Nationality Act under specific circumstances. The criteria for machine-readable or biometric passports under the Visa Waiver Program do not apply to citizens of Canada or Bermuda because these countries are not participants in the program. It should be noted that certain Canadian and Bermudan citizens who go to the U.S. need nonimmigrant visas. This is because of the maintained unofficial relations these states have with the U.S.

ESTA Refusal

The VWP does not permit travel by anyone whose ESTA requests have been denied. Such laws explain that the person must submit a visa application before departing.

You might ask for an accelerated visa appointment if your trip is close. The date and purpose of your trip should be mentioned in your request, along with a copy of any correspondence you may have received from U.S. Customs and Border Protection on the status of your ESTA.

Moreover, the Department of Homeland Security should be contacted with questions regarding the ESTA procedure.

Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015

Several countries with potential visitors must apply for a regular visa, as they aren't eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. This is because of the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. However, not everything is lost in these cases, as the U.S. still allows them to travel to the country's interior as long as they qualify for other immigration and tourism programs. Keep on reading to learn more about these options.

What Can These People Do without the Visa Waiver Program?

The best thing that people from this list of countries can do is apply for a regular visa through the pre-established procedures. They can do this at any official American department, such as the respective embassy or consulate in their territory. Depending on the country, this process can take more or less time. Still, there will always be the option to ask for a faster process in emergency cases, such as business trips or other situations requiring the person to be on the American field in little to no time.

Suppose a person's ESTA is rejected although they are excluded from the Act due to their diplomatic or military presence in one of the seven nations. Such terms explain they can visit the CBP website or contact the CBP information center. A nonimmigrant visa application can also be made at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate if the person has a valid passport.

The Bottom Line

People from foreign countries use this electronic system to obtain a visa waiver system for travel authorization or a nonimmigrant visa. Now you know all the unofficial relations with similar entities, such as the Taiwan relations act, and how to apply online for an ESTA nationality act in case you need to travel to the United States for business meetings. This is especially useful for business associates, but if you were refused admission, don't worry. You only need to double-check your requirements and apply online again until you get your approved ESTA.

If you never get the electronic travel authorization, you can always try to get another type of visa through similar entities. However, please make sure to have a valid passport. If you want more information about this, check the rest of this website.