ESTA application

An ESTA authorization enables you to enter the USA easily and without a visa. We explain what you need to know about the ESTA application.

What is the ESTA travel authorization?

ESTA stands for "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" and refers to an electronic procedure for visa-free entry into the USA. Currently, travelers from the 40 states participating in the US government's Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can apply for ESTA and benefit from the straightforward entry process.

Countries eligible for ESTA
Andorra Australia Austria Belgium
Brunei1 Chile Croatia Czech Republic
Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Great Britain Greece Hungary2
Iceland Ireland Israel 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      

1 The validity period of an ESTA authorization for travelers from Brunei has been reduced from two years to one year, effective July 6th, 2023.

2 The validity period of an ESTA authorization for Hungarian travelers has been shortened from two years to one year, effective August 1st, 2023. In addition, Hungarians are now only allowed to enter the US once per ESTA and also require a Hungarian birth certificate for the ESTA process.

Why should I apply for ESTA?

The ESTA authorization offers many advantages. For example, you can benefit from a practical online form that can be completed in a matter of minutes. Unlike with the US visa, an in-person appointment at a US embassy is not necessary.

Also, your ESTA application will be processed within a very short time. You will receive your result after a maximum of 72 hours after submitting the form to the US authorities.

What am I allowed to do in the USA with ESTA?

An ESTA authorizes you to stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 days at a time for various purposes. You can apply for an ESTA if you:

  • Go on a vacation
  • Attend business appointments (meetings, negotiations, conferences)
  • Undergo medical treatment
  • Participate in short leisure studies or workshops
  • Have a transfer at a US airport

Please note:

An ESTA authorization does not entitle you to work or study in the USA. For these purposes, you must apply for a visa at the US Embassy or Consulate.

ESTA application: What are the requirements?

In order for your ESTA application to be successful, you must meet several requirements. These include:

  • You have a biometric passport that is valid at least until the end of the journey (in some cases even longer).
  • You are a citizen of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
  • You do not currently hold a valid visitor visa for the United States.
  • You plan to stay in the USA for a maximum of 90 days.
  • You do not have dual citizenship from any of the following countries: Iran, Iraq, Cuba, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.
  • You have not been in any of the following countries since March 1st, 2011: Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, or Syria.
  • You have not been in Cuba since January 12th, 2021.
  • You do not pose a security risk to the United States.
  • Travelers from Hungary need a Hungarian birth certificate for the application.

ESTA news for travelers from Brunei and Hungary

The validity period of an ESTA permit for travelers from Brunei and Hungary has been shortened by the US government from two years to one year. Hungarian travelers are also only allowed to enter the USA once per ESTA and require a Hungarian birth certificate for the ESTA process.

Where can I file an ESTA application?

There is no need to visit a government office for the ESTA application. You can conveniently fill out and submit an online form. Compared to the US visa, the ESTA application thus saves you a considerable amount of time.

The ESTA online form can be found on the website of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCIS). If you wish to receive additional advice or guarantees, such as correction of your information or a money-back guarantee in case of rejection, you can also submit your application through an ESTA agency.

When is the right time to submit an ESTA application?

The processing of an ESTA application can take up to 72 hours. You should definitely observe this 3-day deadline in order not to jeopardize your travel plans. It is even recommended to submit the ESTA application as early as about two months before a planned trip to the USA. This way, you theoretically have enough time to obtain a visa for the USA in case of an ESTA rejection.

ESTA application: required information

The straightforward ESTA application can be filled out in a few minutes if you have all the necessary data ready. The following information is requested in the ESTA application:

  • Personal data
  • Information about your employer
  • Emergency contact
  • Passport information
  • Accommodation address / contact in the USA (e.g., hotel, vacation home)

ESTA application for children and babies

Each person traveling – regardless of age – requires their own ESTA authorization to enter the United States. Accordingly, you must also submit an ESTA application for children or babies traveling with you to the United States. Furthermore, children also need their own biometric passports to qualify for ESTA. You cannot apply for ESTA with a children's passport.

Security questions in the ESTA application

At the end of the ESTA application, you will be asked several security questions that you must answer truthfully. The questions are designed to help the US authorities to identify potential security risks facing the United States. They relate to the topics:

  • Criminal record
  • Diseases
  • Drugs
  • Immigration intentions
  • Illegal stays in the USA
  • Travel to certain countries
  • Dual citizenship
  • Terrorist intentions

ESTA application denied: What can I do?

The rejection of an ESTA application can have many reasons. These can include criminal records, unauthorized stays in the USA, stays in certain countries (e.g., Iran, Syria), or incorrect information in the ESTA application. In some cases, however, even minor oversights, e.g., typing errors, transposed numbers, or forgotten information when filling out the ESTA form, can lead to a rejection of the application.

However, a rejected ESTA application does not mean that you are not allowed to travel to the USA. You still have the option to apply for a US visa. However, the visa application process takes much longer (about two months) and includes an interview at the US consulate or embassy.

Tip

Avoid any mistakes due to carelessness by seeking the assistance of a professional ESTA agency such as esta-application.com. The USA experts will carefully review your application before submitting it to the US authorities and will advise you if you have any questions or problems.

ESTA application FAQ

Do you have more questions about the ESTA application? In our FAQ, you will certainly find the answer:

Do minors need to have an ESTA?

Yes, regardless of age, every person traveling – including children and babies – must have their own valid ESTA for the USA.

How much time does an ESTA application take?

If you have all the necessary data at hand, the ESTA application will take you about 10 minutes to complete. Should you be submitting an ESTA group application, plan on about 10 minutes per person in your group to complete it.

I have a transit at a US airport: do I need to submit an ESTA application?

Changing flights and a short stay at an American airport also count as entry into the USA. You must, therefore, apply for a transit ESTA.

Do I need to submit an ESTA application to enter the USA by land?

Yes, since October 2022, you also need an ESTA authorization to enter the USA by land. This means that standardized entry regulations now apply, regardless of the means of transport you use to get to the USA.

What is the cost of an ESTA application?

If you submit your application on the USCIS website by yourself, the ESTA cost amounts to $ 21. Through an ESTA agency, you can submit your ESTA application (including data check and consultation) starting at around € 50.

How can I pay my ESTA fee?

On the website of the US authorities, you can pay the ESTA fee either with a credit card or via PayPal. ESTA agencies such as esta-application.com provide you with additional payment options such as Giropay, Sofortüberweisung, or EPS.

When is a new ESTA application required?

Most ESTA applications have a validity of two years. However, ESTA validity is tied to your passport. Consequently, if your passport expires during the ESTA validity period, your ESTA authorization will expire and you will need to complete a new application.