ESTA is a document which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without the traditional visa for stays of 90 days or less, when they meet all requirements and guidelines as established by the Department of Homeland Security. Travellers must comply with the eligibility standards of the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) approval prior to departure. You may be eligible for an ESTA if you are a citizen of the United Kingdom or participating Visa Waiver Programme country and travelling to the United States for 90 days or less for the purpose of Tourism or Limited Business. Examples of acceptable reasons for travel utilising an ESTA are listed below.

Reasons for Travelling to the United States qualifying for ESTA

  • tourism
  • vacation (holiday)
  • visiting friends or relatives
  • medical treatment
  • participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social or service organisations
  • participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
  • consult with business associates
  • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
  • attend short-term training (you may not be paid by any source in the U.S. with the exception of expenses incidental to your stay)
  • negotiate a contract

Travel Purposes Not Permitted under the Visa Waiver Programme - Examples

These are some examples of activities not permitted under the VWP and require nonimmigrant visas for travel to the United States

  • study, for credit
  • employment
  • work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media
  • permanent residence in the United States
In addition to the having a valid citizenship from a participating Visa Waiver Program country and having a valid purpose for travel, all persons travelling

Please ensure you have the Correct Type of Passport

You must have a passport from a visa waiver country that is valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States. For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his/her own passport.

Trips to Canada, Mexico, or nearby Islands

If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may take a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or a nearby island and generally be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the remainder of the original 90 days granted upon your initial arrival in the United States. Therefore, the length of time of your total stay, including the short trip, must be 90 days or less.

E-Passports and Machine Readable Passports


Informational Data related to an individual's identity is incorporated in an electronic chip into the passport, referred to as an e-Passport. The data on the chip includes the two lines of machine-readable printed data and facial recognition data. The chip can be scanned to match the identity of the 4traveler to the passport. You can readily identify an e-Passport, because it has a unique international symbol on the cover.

Machine-Readable Passport

A machine-readable passport has two lines text below the picture of your personal information page containing biographical information. The page containing machine readable information is scanned at the port of entry, most often an airport, when you seek to enter the United States.

Additional information can be obtained by visiting the US Customs and Border Protection website: CBP.GOV
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