The Republic of Estonia joined the United States of America’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in October 2008 together with other states. The year after, on January 12th, 2019, citizens of Estonia could start to use the new Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), an online application form that has since streamlined the immigration process for both Estonians and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The ESTA system helps to pre-screen travelers before entering the U.S., granting Estonians access to the U.S. for 90 days for the purpose of business, tourism (including medical purposes), and non-credit study programs.
For Estonians with a declined ESTA application, or who are traveling to the U.S. for other reasons than those mentioned above, a B-2 tourist visa could be applied for instead. An important distinction is that the ESTA is not a visa. Instead, it is a travel document/authorization that grants access to the U.S. for up to 90 days, and all travelers in a given travel group would need to hold an approved ESTA application (even children/infants).
If you are planning to visit the U.S. in the near future, then keep in mind that it is now mandatory to apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before boarding the plane. So, apply in good time. The ESTA itself is valid for 2 years and can be used multiple times. When it expires, Estonian citizens can renew it by applying for a brand new ESTA.
U.S. Immigration statistics about Estonian citizens (2017):
- The total amount of visitors from Estonia: 28 544
- Approved ESTA applications: 24 208
- Students and exchange visitors: 1 012
- Temporary workers and family-related applications: 764
- Diplomats and other official representatives: 754
- Other types of visitor categories: 207
How to get from Estonia to the United States
As of today, no direct flights are going from Estonia to the U.S., but there are plenty of good choices that includes at least one-stop options to choose from if you are flying out of Lennart Meri Tallinn Airport (TLL). It can take from 10-13 hours for the fastest routes to reach the East Coast and the most common connecting cities to enter the U.S. are Helsinki, Stockholm, Warsaw, Copenhagen, Moscow, and London. Most popular carriers, to name a few, are LOT Polish Airlines, Finnair, Aeroflot, Lufthansa, Norwegian Air Shuttle, and British Airways.
Tallinn Airport is located only 4km from the city center. It is so close that you could almost walk there. If you are driving to the airport, then you should have no problem finding a parking space. There is parking for both short stay and extended stay. There is also a Kiss&Fly parking area in the parking house where you can park for free for 15 minutes. Areas A2 and A4 also offer short term parking options. To get the full overview, check out this page here.
If you are taking the tram, take Line 4: Tondi – Lennujaam. Lennujaam is the stop at the airport (see the map here). If you are taking the bus from the city center, take the Tallinn City Transport Buses No. 2 and No. 65 to reach the airport stop (timetables: City Center - Mõigu route #2, Airport – Viimsi route #49, Lasnamäe – Airport route #65). Some long-distance buses driving towards Tallinn along the Tartu Highway stop at the airport. But not all. So, make sure you take the correct line and ask the bus driver before boarding the bus (timetables).
What is the best time to apply for an ESTA?
Since December 2018 it has been mandatory for everyone to apply for an ESTA 72 hours before boarding a plane that is U.S.-bound. To be on the safe side, travelers are recommended to apply weeks or months in advance to make sure that their travel authorization (ESTA) is approved. Those that get denied have to apply for a B-2 visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy, which can take a very long time to complete. If you have plans to visit the United States in the near future, then apply today. Read more about the ESTA application here.
Estonians with an approved ESTA can check its status or make updates. Visit this page for more information: verify/update ESTA.
Estonian citizens can apply for ESTA online
The ESTA is valid for 2 years for visitors from Estonia
Estonians can stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days with an approved ESTA
Estonia’s overstay rate is only: 0.53%