ESTA Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find answers to many common questions regarding ESTA and traveling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program.
Legal Notice: ESTA.us is a privately owned service provider specializing in the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA (U.S. Travel Authorization). Our mission is to help applicants understand the different aspects of the Visa Waiver Program and to provide information related to all aspects of applying for a Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Q What is ESTA?
A ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an automated system that determines whether a citizen from a Visa Waiver Country is allowed to travel to the United States and apply for admission to enter. ESTA is only related to traveling; it is not a visa requirement. The entire ESTA application process takes place online. There are no physical forms to print, and you do not have to go in person to a U.S. embassy or consulate. For those who have ever visited Australia as a tourist, the Australian ETA application process is a similar concept. With technology evolving, many countries are now adopting similar systems and are generally referred to as E-Visas.
Q I have applied for an ESTA, but I haven't received it yet. What should I do?
A It can take 72 hours to process an application. So be patient. If however, you need to know right now, then try and email the service provider and ask for it. In some cases, if you misspelled your email, they might have difficulty sending it to you. Make sure that you have also checked your spam/junk folder.
Q I've already submitted my application for a Travel Authorization, but I made a mistake. How can I fix it?
A We do not have access to ESTA applications already submitted to the U.S. government. We cannot help to update incorrect passport numbers, misspelled names, wrong birth dates, retrieve any missed ESTA Application Numbers, or confirm any applications already submitted. You may contact the service provider that you applied with and hope to catch them before they have started processing your application. If you have already received the application via email, and some information is not correct. Then the only way to update the information is to re-apply. The only fields that you can update after you have received an approved ESTA application are your email and the place of stay in the U.S.
Q I have a passport from a Visa Waiver country. Do I need to apply for ESTA?
A It depends. You are required to apply for ESTA if you intend to enter the United States by air or sea, under the Visa Waiver Program. However, ESTA is not required if you are entering by land. If you plan on staying in the United States for more than 90 days (60 days for Greek citizens) or have been previously denied entry into the country, you must apply for a U.S. visa.
Q Do I need to have any specific plans before I apply for a Travel Authorization?
A No. You can apply for ESTA at any time as long as your passport is machine-readable and you hold citizenship from a Visa Waiver country. Passport holders from most countries that recently became members of the Visa Waiver Program must have an ePassport to apply for ESTA.
Q What happens if I do not get an approval for the Travel Authorization?
A According to recent statistics published by the Department of Homeland Security, over 99% of all ESTA applicants are approved within a few seconds. However, if your application is denied, you will have to apply for a United States visitor visa, such as a B-2 Tourist Visa at the nearest U.S. embassy. Contact us for additional information on how to apply for U.S. visas.
Q What happens if I need to update my Travel Authorization after I am approved?
A You will be able to change your itinerary on a current Travel Authorization. ESTA is designed so that you can update your place of stay. You may do so here. It is not necessary to have a flight booking or hotel reservation to initially apply for a Travel Authorization. The only two fields you can update on an approved ESTA is the place of stay in the U.S. and your email address.
Q Why is ESTA required?
A Section 217(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requires DHS (Department of Homeland Security) to enhance the current Visa Waiver Program security features. ESTA is one of several measures taken to fulfill the security requirement.
Q Is a ESTA Travel Authorization the same as a Visa?
A No. A Travel Authorization is only necessary for a visitor traveling on the Visa Waiver Program. It is only a travel requirement. A visa must be obtained in advance by individuals not eligible to enter on the Visa Waiver Program. If you already hold a valid U.S. visitor visa, you should not apply for ESTA.
Q How early in advance is it recommended to obtain an ESTA?
A You should at least allow yourself 72 hours (3 days). However, if you are planning to visit the U.S. it is recommended to apply as early as possible. If your Travel Authorization is denied you will have to apply for a visitor visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Sometimes, appointment slots are difficult to attain and may take weeks.
Q Can I re-apply for a Travel Authorization if I was not approved the first time?
A Yes, but you must wait at least 10 days and your circumstances must have changed. Note that applying for a Travel Authorization with false information will make you permanently barred from ever visiting the United States. A U.S. embassy or consulate cannot help you to get an approved Travel Authorization.
Q I have a valid B-1/B-2 visitor visa. Do I need a Travel Authorization?
A No. As long as your visa is valid you do not need a Travel Authorization.
Q Do I still have to complete Form I-94W ("the green form")?
A No. Foreigners visiting the U.S. via air or sea no longer need to complete the paper Customers and Border Protection Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Information gathered by the CBP is now automated via electronic travel records. However, CBP will issue travelers a paper form I-94 at all land border ports of entry. And the I-94 is for land borders crossings and can be obtained via an online application.
Q I was previously denied a visa to the US. Can I apply for a Travel Authorization and enter on the Visa Waiver Program?
A No. If you have ever been denied a visa you cannot travel under the Visa Waiver Program.
Q I was denied admission to the US previously. Can I apply for a Travel Authorization and enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program?
A No. If you have previously been denied admission you must apply for a visa before attempting to visit the U.S. You must apply for a B-1 Visitor Visa or B-2 Tourist Visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy.
Q I already have a valid visitor visa. Do I also need to apply for a Travel Authorization?
A No. As long as your visa is valid, you do not need to apply for ESTA.
Q I am a citizen from a country that is not part of the Visa Waiver Program. Am I eligible to apply for ESTA?
A It depends also on your passport. In some cases, you might be eligible depending on your situation. You may try to apply, and you will quickly discover your eligibility. ESTA Travel Authorization is only for individuals who enter the United States with a passport from a Visa Waiver Country. If you do not have a passport from a Visa Waiver Country, you must apply for a U.S. Visitor Visa. Contact us for more information on how to apply for a U.S. visa.