ESTA is an electronic authorization required for visa free travel to the United States by citizens from the UK, EU, and other Visa Waiver countries. An ESTA application can be submitted online by completing an application form. It costs £49 per applicant.
Who are eligible for ESTA?
Citizens of Visa Waiver countries (including the UK) require an ESTA whenever traveling visa free to or through an American airport or port, regardless of the purpose of the visit. This includes those traveling for leisure, business, family visits or transit. This requirement also extends to underage travelers, even when accompanied by their parents or guardians. However, those traveling to the US on a visa (e.g. those traveling to study or work) do not need an ESTA.
Citizens of the following countries are required to apply for an ESTA when traveling to the US:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
Some citizens may be nonetheless still be ineligible for an ESTA, based on factors such as e.g. their criminal and travel history (for further details, see the background questions in the application form). If your ESTA application is denied, you may still be able to obtain a regular visa through an American embassy.
How long does it take to file an ESTA application?
You can complete and submit your ESTA application within a couple of minutes. However, your application may take as long as 72 hours to process before it is issued. Remember that you will need an approved ESTA already when you are boarding your flight. Accordingly, we recommend that you apply at least a week before your scheduled time of departure, to ensure that you will receive your approved ESTA in due time, even in case your application ends up requiring additional processing.
What is ESTA?
ESTA simply means Electronic System for Travel Authorization. A ESTA authorization is not the same as a visa, but instead a way of pre-authorizing visa free travelers. This ensures that all travelers are screened ahead of times, and that those ineligible for entry are barred from boarding any planes bound for the US. For most travelers this process is both quick and convenient, and most applicants will receive a reply within an hour. Since the ESTA system is completely electronic, your authorization is also issued electronically. This means that airlines and immigration officers can look up your applications by either scanning your passport or based on your passport number. It is therefore not necessary to print out your approval letter (however, it can be good to bring just in case of any technical problems with your carrier).
What is the validity of an ESTA authorization?
An ESTA authorization is valid for two years by default. However, since it is tied to the passport with which you applied, it will automatically expire along with your passport (i.e. if you apply with a passport that expires in one year, your ESTA will also expire that day).
An ESTA authorization is valid for multiple stays in the US during this 2 year period. Each stay may last for up to 90 days. This includes stays in adjacent countries, such as Canada, Mexico and Caribbean islands. You should not return to the US immediately again after leaving. If a border agent determines that you are de facto living in the US, you may be denied entry even though you have a valid ESTA.
Traveling on an ESTA authorization
When traveling to the US on an ESTA authorization, remember that:
- You may be asked to show either a return or onward ticket to verify that you do not intend to stay in the US indefinitely.
- Even though you have been issued an ESTA, the US government reserves the right to refuse your entry if it is deemed in the interest of the public safety.
- Those who have been to one of the countries mentioned in the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 may be asked of proof that they traveled their as part of their governmental or military role.
How do you apply for an ESTA?
Applying for an ESTA is a really fast and straightforward process. You simply fill out the online application form here, pay the application fees, and then you will receive your approval letter at the email address you provided in the form. It is thus very important that you verify that you provided a valid email address, as you might otherwise not get your reply in time. Similarly, it is important that your passport number and details are all entered exactly as they appear on your passport. Otherwise, your application may be void or considered invalid for travel.
How to fill out the ESTA application form
In order to apply for an ESTA authorization, you must provide the following information:
- PASSPORT DETAILS
- First Name (exactly as it appears in the machine readable zone of your passport)
- Last Name (exactly as it appears in the machine readable zone of your passport)
- Date of Birth
- Place of Birth
- Country of Birth
- Passport Number
- Passport Issuing Country
- Date of Issuance
- Date of Expiry
- OTHER NATIONALITIES
- In this field you must declare if you are currently or have previously been a national of any other countries.
- EMAIL ADDRESS
- Make sure this is a valid email address, since your approval letter, or any eligibility questions, will be sent to this address.
- PERSONAL INFORMATION
- Do you have any other names or aliases?
- Have you ever been issued a passport by another country?
- Contact Information
- Social Media
- GE Membership
- Employment Information
- Are you traveling to the US or transiting to another country?
- Contact Person in the US (only if visiting the US)
- Emergency Contact
- ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS
- Do you have a physical or mental illness, or are you addicted to drugs, or do you currently have some of the following diseases: Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis infectious, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Crimean-Congo, Severe acute respiratory illnesses capable of transmission to other persons and likely to cause mortality.
- Have you been arrested or convicted of a crime that resulted in serious damage to property or serious harm to another person or state authority?
- Have you ever violated any law regarding the possession, use or distribution of illegal drugs?
- Are you seeking participation in, or have you ever participated in, terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage or genocide?
- Have you ever committed fraud or given a misleading image of yourself in order to obtain, or help others obtain, a visa or access to the United States?
- Are you currently looking for work in the United States, or have you previously been employed in the United States without prior permission from the United States Government?
- Have you ever been denied a US visa that you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been denied entry into the United States or had your application for entry into the United States withdrawn at a U.S. entry point?
- Have you ever stayed longer in the United States than the period allotted to you by the U.S. government?
- Have you traveled to or been to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on March 1, 2011 or later?
When you have finished filling out the form, simply continue to the payment window, pay the application fees, and you will then subsequently receive your approval letter on your email address, usually within just one hour.
If you have any questions about the process or regarding your application, we are always glad to help. Simply send any queries you might have to our support email and one of our travel authorization specialists will help you out with your query.