ESTA Learning Center

ESTA Learning Center

ESTA Learning Center
  • What is ESTA?
  • Informative videos about ESTA
  • What is the Visa Waiver Programme?
  • Electronic System for Travel Authorisation
  • When should I apply for an ESTA?
  • Should I contact the American Embassy?
  • Is ESTA equivalent to a VISA?
  • Which type of travel is eligible for ESTA?
  • Countries participating in the ESTA Programme
  • Transit travel and ESTA
  • Who can apply for an ESTA?
  • Important ESTA Requirements
  • Passport Requirements for the ESTA
  • US Entry requirements
  • Computer Requirements to submit an ESTA application
  • How to submit the ESTA form
  • The ESTA application process
  • What are the ESTA application responses?
  • What to do if the ESTA application is denied?
  • What happens at the port of Entry?
  • How to avoid the most common mistakes
  • Validity and Expiration of the ESTA
  • When should you renew your ESTA?
  • Important Recommendations
  • What information can be updated on the ESTA?
  • What should I do if my passport has changed?
  • What if my passport expired?
  • Arriving to the United States
  • ESTA does not guarantee entry to the US
  • Prohibited items when entering the US
  • Steps to complete the ESTA form

What is ESTA?

ESTA
ESTA represents the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation.

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP). The Department of Homeland Security currently oversees this program. The ESTA online system communicates with the Advance Carrier Information System (APIS) used by airlines, and notifies the carrier as to whether a boarding pass should be issued.

The ESTA replaces the I-94W green form and allows travellers to request an authorisation for travel to the US prior to boarding the flight. Completing the ESTA form online is mandatory for all eligible citizens of designated Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) countries.

Is the ESTA a visa?

The answer is no, ESTA allows you to travel to the United States without having to request the traditional non-immigrant visitor VISA. However, travellers sometimes do refer to the ESTA as an ESTA visa.

If you are travelling to the United States for the purpose of work, a US non-immigrant business visa is required.

If your intentions are to request a permanent stay in the United States, you must complete the procedures for the appropriate VISA.

Who is required to complete an ESTA application form?

As of January 20, 2010 all eligible citizens of designated Visa Waiver Programme countries must complete the online ESTA application to receive US travel authorisation. You will not be permitted to board or travel to the US without your ESTA approval.

If you are travelling as part of a group, like a family holiday for example, each member of the group must complete a separate online ESTA form. The travel permit to the US is also required for children, even if they are not required to pay a fare.

You are authorised to complete the ESTA application on behalf of a family member or travelling party. A separate application and fee is required for each traveller.

Does the ESTA or a VISA guarantee entry into the United States?

An approved ESTA or valid visa does not guarantee admission into the United States. The ESTA approval authorises the recipient to travel on an approved carrier to the US. In the same way, travellers with a non-immigrant visa may travel to the United States for the purpose it was issued.

Once arriving at the first airport or port of entry, all foreign nationals with an approved ESTA or valid visa must clear immigration and customs inspection. A U.S. Customs and Border Protection Officer will review your documents and your case, and determine your admission into the USA. There is no transit status for international flights with a connection in a U.S. airport. All passengers from international flights must disembark the aeroplane and proceed through the regular protocol of immigration and customs processing.

How long is my ESTA approval valid for?

Unless revoked, an ESTA approval is valid for two years from its date of approval, unless your passport expires first.

When do I need to request the travel authorisation?

Applications may be submitted at any time prior to your departure to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that travel authorisation applications be submitted at least 72 hours prior to flight departure.

Can I apply for an ESTA if I am unsure of my travel dates to the United States?

Travellers may submit their ESTA request and receive a valid travel authorisation without specific travel plans or an itinerary.

Foreign nationals travelling under the Visa Waiver Programme are not required to include travel information in order to receive an approved travel status.

The Department of Homeland Security encourages travellers to enter itinerary information to the best of their abilities at the time of the application. For example, information about the hotel or approximate city or location can be entered in the relevant fields.

An approved ESTA application can be updated as often as necessary. The traveller may update information once it has been finalised, or if returning to the US on multiple trips. Travel information fields remain optional and do not interfere or change an approval status.

The guidelines as established by US government recommend eligible Visa Waiver Programme nationals to submit their ESTA applications as early as possible and at least 72 hours prior to their intended departure.

Do I need an ESTA for a connecting or onward flight through the USA? What happens if I am transiting through the USA?

All passengers on international flights with a stop or connecting flight in the United States require proper documentation to disembark and continue through US immigration and customs processing. Eligible citizens of designated Visa Waiver Programme countries must have an approved ESTA.

When completing the online ESTA application, ‘In Transit’ should be entered in the Address Field found under the optional Travel Information heading.