Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (2023)

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The ESTA for the United States (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows travelers from certain countries to enter the U.S. for 90 days without a visa. Tourists and business travelers who are visiting the U.S. from countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program may apply for an ESTA.

If you’d like to travel to the United States, but you’re worried about the ESTA application, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this process. We’ve been living in the USA for years now, and whenever our family or friends come to visit, they get this travel authorization. So, we have a lot of experience in requesting an ESTA for the United States.

We usually use the official ESTA website to apply, but if we’re in a hurry, we use iVISA. The iVISA website is super simple and expedites the application process, so I recommend it if you’re in a rush. In this guide, I’ll show you how to apply for an ESTA on the official website as well as through iVISA.

  • Who needs an ESTA for the United States
  • How to apply for the ESTA
  • Requirements for the ESTA application
  • What to do if your ESTA application is denied
  • How long is the ESTA to the USA valid
  • How much does the USA ESTA cost
  • Other important information about the ESTA

What is an ESTA for the USA?

Since January 12, 2009, all visa-exempt travelers arriving in the United States by air, land, or sea must apply for an ESTA.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (1)

The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows travelers from countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program to enter the U.S. without a visa for tourist or business reasons (like conferences or events) for up to 90 days.

The primary purpose of the USA ESTA is to allow the Department of Homeland Security to pre-screen travelers before they leave their home country. Therefore, your application for the ESTA must be processed in a timely manner.

Who needs an ESTA for the United States?

Travelers who arrive from any of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program and who are going to be in the U.S. for up to 90 days for tourist or business reasons may apply for the ESTA. Those who are going to have a layover in the U.S. must also have an ESTA for the United States, even if their destination is in another country.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (2)

Who needs an ESTA for the United States?

The ESTA isn’t valid for travelers who are coming to the U.S. to work or study, even if they’ll be in the country for less than 90 days. In their case, they’ll need a work or study visa.

Below is a list of all the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, and must have an ESTA to travel to the USA:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

How to apply for the ESTA online

You can request the ESTA through the official website or through iVISA. Most of the time, we use the official ESTA website. However, if we’re in a hurry, we’ll use iVISA. This website is super intuitive and ensures you’ll be approved for your ESTA.

If you’re going to apply for the ESTA online through the official website, I recommend doing it in advance, just in case there are any issues. Keep in mind that an ESTA for the USA is valid for 24 months from the approval date, so you shouldn’t have any problems applying in advance. However, if your passport expires within the next 24 months, so will your ESTA.

Use the official ESTA website application

You can fill out an ESTA application for the USA through the official website here. You’ll fill out a form with the applicant’s required information:

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (3)

You’ll also have to provide information about your social media presence, your parents, and your employer:

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (4)

There is also a section where you’ll answer a series of questions to verify your eligibility for a USA ESTA:

(Video) ESTA USA | Step by Step Guide

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (5)

While filling out this form takes some time, it’s crucial for your ESTA application, so make sure all the information is correct. Otherwise, you could be denied.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (6)

Once you’ve completed and submitted your online ESTA application, you’ll have to make a payment by credit or debit card. A $21 payment is required to process your application.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (7)

Once the application is approved, your ESTA authorization will arrive via email in as little as three days.

If you have any questions or concerns while you’re filling out your application, you can access a webpage with FAQs here.

Apply for the ESTA through iVISA

You can also apply for a United States ESTA through iVISA, which is what we use when we want to quickly get an ESTA or any other visa to another country.

If you apply for an ESTA online through iVISA, you’ll have to fill out a form, but it’s a much faster process because the website pre-populates the form for you. You can finish your application on iVISA in about five minutes.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (8)

Another great thing about iVISA is that you can apply for multiple ESTAs at the same time. Just fill in the data for the first applicant, then click “Add another person” and put in their information:

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (9)

Once your information has been completed and verified, you have a few options depending on how quickly you need the ESTA. The price depends on the processing time but varies from $60.99 for 24 hours to $150.99 for two hours. You’ll receive the authorization by email.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (10)

The last thing to do is to pay the corresponding amount by credit card, PayPal, Venmo, or Google Pay:

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (11)

Without a doubt, this is the best option if you need your ESTA for the United States as soon as possible. I’d also like to add that iVISA has a 24/7 customer support chat and a contact form on its website.

How iVISA makes it easier to get an ESTA online

Whenever we travel to a foreign country, we go to the iVISA website to check what type of documentation we need. With iVISA, you can request a visa for almost any country, so it’s the perfect resource for frequent travelers.

One of the main advantages of using iVISA instead of the official ESTA website is that the application form is much easier to fill out. Plus, iVISA is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, and Chinese. Overall, the process is much simpler since iVISA presents the information and entry requirements in a clear and detailed manner.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (12)

Another benefit of iVISA is the fast delivery times. After completing your ESTA application and making your payment, you’ll get your travel authorization by email within 24 hours. In comparison, the official ESTA website takes 72 hours or more to deliver your authorization.

Also, if you have any doubts or questions during the application process, iVISA’s professional and multilingual staff is there to chat 24/7. There is also an online contact form, so you can quickly and easily get in touch with someone rather than reading through a bunch of FAQs.

Finally, iVISA reviews your application thoroughly to ensure you have the highest chance of approval. If you use the official site, you may miss something and get denied, which makes the process of applying for an ESTA even longer.

So, I highly recommend iVISA for its simplicity and its quick ESTA processing times.

Requirements for the ESTA application

Everyone who applies for an ESTA must meet a series of requirements, otherwise, they could be denied. Since these requirements are subject to change, we update this article regularly based on the information published on the official website.

Below are the requirements to be approved for an ESTA for the United States:

Documentation

One of the basic requirements to apply for the ESTA is to have a passport from one of the countries belonging to the Visa Waiver: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (13)

Documentation

Also, it’s important that your passport is valid at the time of applying for the ESTA and during your trip, especially since authorization is typically valid for 24 months. However, the authorization will also expire if your passport expires within those 24 months.

(Video) How to Fill Out the ESTA Form for The USA I STEP BY STEP I 2022 I Made Simple I US Visa

As of April 1, 2016, your passport should be electronic (an e-passport) with a chip or else you risk being denied boarding, even if you have an ESTA.

Purpose of trip

An ESTA for the USA applies to trips under 90 days, so you must be able to show a return ticket to your country or to a country other than the U.S.

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Purpose of trip

Also, this travel authorization is only valid for certain trips, specifically tourism, visits to see friends or family, or business purposes like conferences and events. You can also apply for an ESTA if you’re traveling to the United States to take a short-term course that won’t result in a degree.

Remember, you can’t request an ESTA if you’re going to work in the U.S. or take a course that gives you credit toward a degree.

Other requirements

The application for the ESTA can be completed through the official website or iVISA. You must make sure that all the information on your application is correct, and payment is required.

While the ESTA processing time is usually fast, you should request travel authorization at least 72 hours before your trip.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (15)

Other requirements

If you’re traveling by air or sea, you’ll need a ticket to a destination outside the United States. If your ticket is electronic, you must have a copy of the itinerary. Travelers arriving by land from Canada or Mexico must present Form I-94W, which is provided at U.S. ports of entry.

You’ll also need an ESTA if you’re passing through the United States on your way to another destination. The length of this stopover can be any duration under 90 days.

What to do if your ESTA application is denied

Your application for an ESTA could be denied for several reasons, such as not meeting the above requirements. The ESTA to the USA can also be denied to people who:

  • Have committed misdemeanors without arrest or conviction
  • Have a criminal record
  • Have been arrested
  • Have a contagious disease
  • Have been denied entry to the U.S.
  • Have been deported from the U.S.
  • Have illegally prolonged their stay in the U.S.
  • Have been to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011
  • Have dual nationality as a citizen of a Visa Waiver country and Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria

If your ESTA application is denied, you’ll have to apply for a visa.

If the application has been denied because of an error in completing the form, you must start a new application.

How long is the ESTA to the USA valid?

The ESTA for the USA is valid for 24 months from the date it is issued. If your passport expires before those 24 months are up, your ESTA will also expire. That said, your ESTA application won’t be approved if your passport is going to expire in the next six months.

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How long is the ESTA to the USA valid?

During the 24 months that your ESTA is valid, you can make multiple layovers or entries into the U.S., as long as your stay doesn’t exceed 90 days.

How much does the USA ESTA cost?

The price of the USA ESTA on the official website is $21. This is the cheapest option, although the processing time can exceed 72 hours.

If you apply for an ESTA through iVISA, the cost depends on the urgency of your application. The Standard option costs $60.99 and takes 24 hours; the Fast option costs $122.99 and takes eight hours; and the Superfast option costs $150.99 and takes just two hours.

Other important information about the ESTA for the USA

If you meet all the requirements for ESTA authorization to the USA and you’re ready to apply, check this section first. There are some special cases in which your ESTA processing time could be longer.

ESTA for families

When applying for a family or group ESTA, each traveler must have a valid passport from a country that’s part of the Visa Waiver Program. Also, an ESTA application must be filled out for each traveler, including minors. If you use iVISA, you can do all the ESTA applications together, so it’s much faster.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (17)

ESTA for families

In the case of minors, parents must request the ESTA and accept the conditions on their child’s behalf.

ESTA for people with traffic violations or criminal records

People with traffic violations or criminal records can apply for the ESTA, although approval will depend on the severity of the crime, the age of the traveler, and when the violation took place.

If you have traffic tickets or a criminal record, I recommend being upfront and honest about it on your application, otherwise, you could be denied simply for submitting incorrect information.

Application for an ESTA to the USA [Step-by-step Guide] (18)

ESTA for people with traffic violations or criminal records

(Video) Apply for ESTA USA To travel to the United States

If your ESTA application is denied, you should check if you can obtain entry to the U.S. with a valid visa.

Also, I recommend getting a policy with one of the best travel insurance companies, especially if you’re not sure if you’ll be approved to enter the U.S. This way, you can recover the money you’ve invested in the trip, even if your plans have to be canceled.

FAQs – ESTA for the United States

Now that you know how to apply for the ESTA to the USA, here are the most commonly asked questions about the application and its processing.

Yes, you can have a layover in the United States without an ESTA. In this case, you must present a transit visa, which you can get through the U.S. Embassy.

The ESTA for the USA costs $21 through the official website. If you apply through iVISA, the price starts at $60.99 for expedited service.

The processing time for an ESTA can take 72 hours or more, but you can speed up the process if you use iVISA. With iVISA, you can request an ESTA and receive it in 24 hours or less.

In most cases, you don’t need to have your ticket or accommodation booked before applying for an ESTA.

You will receive your ESTA by email.

If there is incorrect information on your ESTA, you must submit a new application.

You can’t cancel your ESTA application once it has been submitted, nor can you receive a refund. In this case, your best bet is to have a policy with one of the best travel insurance companies, which will cover your trip costs if you cancel.

(Video) HOW TO FILL OUT AN ESTA FORM ONLINE - STEP BY STEP

Yes, all travelers, including minors, need an ESTA. In this case, a parent or legal guardian must submit the application for them.

That’s everything you need to know about applying for an ESTA. I hope this guide helped you understand how to get an ESTA for the U.S., but if you have any questions, leave me a comment below. I’ll do my best to help you out.

Until then, have a wonderful trip to the States!

FAQs

What are the 9 questions on ESTA application? ›

ESTA questions about the applicant & passport information
  • Family Name.
  • First (Given) Name.
  • Gender.
  • Aliases.
  • Date of Birth.
  • City of Birth.
  • Country of Birth.
  • Passport Number.

How do I complete an ESTA application? ›

  1. Go to the official website.
  2. Validate access to the form.
  3. Accept waivers and general conditions.
  4. Fill in the applicant's data.
  5. Check your e-mail.
  6. Complete the personal identity information.
  7. Enter travel information.
  8. Respond to eligibility questions.

Is it easy to fill in an ESTA? ›

Filling out an ESTA application is a fairly quick process but there are some questions and parts of required information that can complicate the application more if the applicant does not have the information, or is not sure which information to provide.

Do ESTA get rejected? ›

Normally, an ESTA application will be authorized fairly quickly unless there are any problems, and even if it is pending for a while, it will be authorized later. However, if it is judged that there are any problems with the application then it will be rejected.

What reasons can you be refused an ESTA? ›

There can be many reasons why your ESTA application has been rejected, including: You have answered any of the eligibility questions with 'yes' You have a second nationality from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia. You have overstayed your last trip in the US.

How far in advance do I need to complete ESTA? ›

When do I need to apply? Official ESTA guidance recommends that you apply at least 72 hours before you travel to the US, though your application may be processed instantly.

How much does an ESTA cost 2022? ›

How much does ESTA cost? ESTA applications cost $14 each, payable when completing the online form.

Do you need to print an ESTA off? ›

You are not required to present a printout of your application number to board your flight. That number is transmitted electronically to the airlines. However, it is important to print a copy of your approved application as it contains your ESTA number that may be needed for reference purposes."

Are ESTA approved immediately? ›

Although the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will usually return an Application Status within 72 hours, you will need to check that status on the ESTA website. To check your ESTA status, go to the ESTA homepage and click "Check Existing Application" and then "Check Individual Status".

Can you speed up ESTA process? ›

The short answer to this question is no, you cannot fast track an ESTA application. However, by ensuring that your ESTA application is completed with all of the correct information, there is a much better chance that it will get processed quickly and approved.

Do I need to upload my passport for ESTA? ›

Do you have to upload your passport for ESTA? You do not have to upload your passport for ESTA but you have the option to do so. If you upload a picture of your passport, the biographic information will be automatically added to the ESTA form to save time.

What is checked on ESTA application? ›

The data you provide in your application is reviewed and verified against a series of databases in order to verify your identity and check that your passport has not been reported stolen or lost. This helps contribute to the security of the United States' external borders, and to combat fraud and terrorism.

Do they check ESTA at airport? ›

Your ESTA will get checked as you go through the Border Control when you land in the US. It is not possible to board a plane to the US without an ESTA, as the airline will usually check whether you have a valid ESTA attached to your passport and if not, they will not allow you on the plane.

How long is ESTA answer? ›

Although it takes three days, or 72 hours, for the results of screening to be finalized after you apply for ESTA in most cases, it may take longer at times such as the peak travel periods of March and August and also after large-scale system maintenance.

Do ESTA check criminal records? ›

When you apply for an ESTA, even if you do not disclose any criminal convictions on your application, a check will be made to see if you have any on file. If you were found to have a criminal conviction then your application will be denied.

Do you get an email when your ESTA is approved? ›

Usually, you will receive an email within a few hours, or up to 72 hours after submitting your application. You are also able to check on the website for your application status, if you have the application reference number.

How many times can I apply for an ESTA? ›

Your ESTA authorization is generally valid for multiple trips over a period of two years (starting the date that you are approved) or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. As long as you received an ESTA authorization to travel, you do not have to reapply during the validity period.

What happens if you lie on ESTA application? ›

What are the potential consequences if I lie on the ESTA form? It is a criminal offence to provide false information for the purposes of obtaining a visa waiver or visa to the US. In the worst case scenario, you will be prosecuted.

Can you reapply for ESTA if rejected? ›

You can notably reapply for an ESTA online after a waiting period of 10 days following the receipt of the refusal notification if the refusal is due to a simple error you made when completing the form. In this case, the refund of costs and fees incurred can be used to pay for the new application.

Can you get an ESTA in 24 hours? ›

The maximum processing time of an ESTA application is 72 hours but applications are often processed much quicker than this. Once you have completed the application and paid the ESTA application fee, you will soon receive a response, this can sometimes take just minutes but can take a few days at most.

Do I need to put middle name on ESTA? ›

ESTA does not ask for middle names - There is no field for a middle name and the field for First Name specifically states NOT to include middle name. As long as the First/Last Name on the ESTA application matches that on the passport you'll be fine.

How long does it take to get a ESTA visa after application? ›

Visa processing takes approximately 21 workdays from the date on which the application is received by the Embassy. A further 2-3 workdays should be allowed for the return of your passport.

How long is an ESTA valid for 2022? ›

ESTA is valid for two years. You may apply for a new ESTA before or after a previous one has expired. There are no restrictions on the number of times you can obtain a new ESTA authorization which is valid for two years from the date of issue.

Which ESTA site is official? ›

You can apply directly via https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/."

How much is ESTA from UK to USA? ›

How to pay no more than the $21 fee. Everyone from the UK going to the USA by air or sea, even those just passing through, must fill out an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) form in advance.

How do you show proof of ESTA? ›

Generally speaking, although it is not essential to print the ESTA authorisation to travel to the U.S., it is considered good practice to keep a copy of the printed form showing the granted authorisation for your own records, and for the unlikely event of any emergency.

What happens if ESTA is denied? ›

If travel authorization under ESTA has been denied, you are required to apply for a visa.

What do you have to declare on an ESTA? ›

What convictions do you have to declare on an ESTA? US authorities advise that applicants should declare all convictions. Failure to provide full disclosure can result in inadmissibility due to fraud or misrepresentation.

Can you fly to US without ESTA? ›

You will need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit the USA as a visitor. You should consult the US State Department website to determine which you will need.

Do you need to book flights before applying for ESTA? ›

You do not need specific travel plans when you are applying for an ESTA, you just need to fill in the address where you will be staying.

Is ESTA automatically approved? ›

It is required to apply for ESTA and receive “authorization approved” status to travel to the U.S. without a visa, even for just a few days. After completing your ESTA application, if there are no problems you may receive “authorization approved” status within 3 days (72 hours) after you apply.

Why does ESTA ask for social media? ›

Information found in social media will enhance the vetting process and may be used to review ESTA applications to validate legitimate travel, adjudicate VWP ineligibility waivers, and identify potential threats.

What are the most commonly asked questions when we go through immigration? ›

Most common questions
  • Where have you flown from? ...
  • Where are you staying? ...
  • What's the purpose of your visit? ...
  • How long will you be staying here? ...
  • What's your occupation? ...
  • Do you have anything to declare? ...
  • When were you born? ...
  • Did you know x/y rule about our country?
10 Dec 2019

What information is needed on an ESTA? ›

The following information may also be required:

Traveler's National ID or Personal ID number (If Applicable). Traveler's Global Entry ID number (If Applicable). Traveler's employer address and phone number (If Applicable). Traveler's U.S. point of contact name, address, and phone (If Applicable).

What are the usual questions that the immigration officers ask? ›

Prepare for Likely Questions From U.S. CBP Officials
  • Why are you visiting the United States? ...
  • Where will you be staying? ...
  • Who will you be visiting? ...
  • How long will you be staying in the U.S.? If you're coming in with an immigrant visa (have been approved for U.S. permanent residence), you won't likely be asked this.

Does ESTA have interview? ›

You'll still be asked particular ESTA questions, but it won't be a tense interview, and most individuals are accepted in around 20 minutes. You can learn more about how the ESTA differs from a US visa, and if that's what you're searching for, you may start the application process right now.

What do immigration officers see on their screen? ›

They'll see all your current travel history to the US and any details regarding prior immigration issues.

What are the top 3 reasons for immigration? ›

People may choose to immigrate for a variety of reasons, such as employment opportunities, to escape a violent conflict, environmental factors, educational purposes, or to reunite with family.

Do I need to print anything for ESTA? ›

You don't need to print off or take your ESTA information with you when you travel – it will automatically be sent to your carrier. It's up to you whether you update your travel information on the ESTA system for future trips.

Do you need to upload your passport on ESTA? ›

Do you have to upload your passport for ESTA? You do not have to upload your passport for ESTA but you have the option to do so. If you upload a picture of your passport, the biographic information will be automatically added to the ESTA form to save time.

Do you need to show anything for ESTA? ›

The United States regulation does NOT require a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) traveler to present a printed copy of the ESTA authorization page in order to travel. However, it is recommended that you print a copy for your records. Some airlines may ask you to bring a copy, in which case you should print it out.

How do I answer immigration questions? ›

Answer all questions fully, succinctly, and truthfully, but do not volunteer information unless asked. If you're unsure of the answer or do not understand a question, you should always say so rather than guess.

What should you not say in an immigration interview? ›

DON'T joke around with the USCIS officer. In particular, avoid joking or sarcasm related to drug dealing, communicable diseases, bigamy, or smuggling people into the country. DON'T argue with your spouse or other family members in the middle of an interview.

Can you refuse to answer immigration questions? ›

You do not have to answer questions asked by immigration officers if you do not want to answer them. This includes questions about your citizenship status, birthplace or place of residence. If you are asked about your immigration status and you wish to remain silent, you may say: “I have the right to remain silent.” 2.

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