Portugal is one of the 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Passport holders from Portugal have the option to apply for a Travel Authorization (ESTA), which gives visa free entry to the United States. The ESTA, or (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) became mandatory on January 12, 2009 for passport holders from all Visa Waiver countries including Portugal.
Prior to ESTA Portuguese travelers only needed to complete Form I-94W upon arrival to a US port of entry. With ESTA now in place Form I-94W is made redundant. However, Customs Form 6059B must still be completed by all Visa Waiver travelers including those from Portugal.
A further requirement of the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA is a machine readable or ePassport. Such passports are enhanced and required in order to apply for ESTA. Nowadays all new passports issued by Visa Waiver countries are machine-readable. It is though important to note that children, infants, babies and adults all need to apply for their own Travel Authorizations and have their own passport. The ESTA application process is entirely online, and operated by U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
Portuguese travelers have the option of applying for ESTA or a B-2 tourist visa to visit the United States. However, the application processes are very different. While ESTA is an online application system, a B-2 visa must be obtained from a U.S. embassy. A Travel Authorization can take up to 72 hours to obtain, while the B-2 visa process is more thorough and can take 2-6 months to complete.
For Portuguese travelers it is important to understand that an approved Travel Authorization is a requirement to board a US bound flight or ship. Upon entry at the US border, all travelers must still request permission to enter the country.
Facts About ESTA for Portuguese Travelers:
- ESTA is an online application portal operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- ESTA is only for required for visits via air or sea. Land border crossings still require Form I-94W to be completed at the border.
- The online application takes on average 15-25 minutes to complete.
- Dual citizens can apply and travel on their Portuguese passport.
- It can take up to 72 hours to receive a response once the ESTA application is submitted.
- The main purpose of ESTA is to pre-screen all travelers visiting the United States under the Visa Waiver program.
- ESTA is only available to passport holders of the 38 Visa Waiver countries including Portugal.
- Denied ESTA applications does not prevent a traveler from applying for a B-2 tourist visa.
Why should I apply for ESTA?
- ESTA has been a mandatory requirement since January 12, 2009.
- The application process for Portuguese citizens is much faster and easier than the traditional B-2 visa process.
- Approved Travel Authorizations are valid for up to 2 years and can be used for multiple entries to the United States.
Who needs to apply for ESTA?
- All travelers who wish to visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.
- ESTA is only required for entry via air or sea (not land borders).
- Transit through the United States also require an approved Travel Authorization.
- Babies, infants and children must have their own ESTA application. Approved Travel Authorizations can be printed in hard copy or saved in PDF format. Below is an example of an APPROVED Travel Authorization.
About ESTA Applications
Online application process
Application takes less than 15 minutes
Over 99% approval rate
Mandatory since January 12, 2009
Valid for up to 2 years