For your Trip to the USA!
For Your Trip
to the USA!
ESTA is a computer-based system for traveling to the United States without a visa.
Travelers from the 39 participating countries of the "Visa Waiver Program" receive a 90-day residence permit for the USA with the help of the "Electronic System for Travel Authorization."
In addition to citizenship in a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country, there are some other requirements for traveling with ESTA. These relate, for example, to the purpose of the trip to the USA or certain characteristics of the travelers.
As a citizen of one of the 39 Visa Waiver Program countries, you may travel with ESTA if:
* Applies when booking the Premium and First Class service.
Currently, citizens of the following 39 countries (Visa Waiver Program countries) can use the ESTA program:
|Countries eligible for ESTA|
An ESTA travel authorization entitles you to engage in tourist and certain business activities in the USA.
If you have an ESTA authorization to travel to the United States, then you are allowed to do the following things during your stay in the USA:
ESTA sets clear limits in the professional or educational field, as well as in the length of stay and alternative methods of entry:
You may not travel to the USA with ESTA if:
If one or more of the above applies to you, you must request a US visa instead of ESTA.
For each person who wants to travel to the USA without a visa, a separate ESTA authorization must be requested. This also applies to infants and babies.
Just like adults, children need a biometric passport to travel with ESTA. If you only have a non-biometric children's passport, you must apply for a visa for your child.
Even if you are only entering the USA in transit to another country, you will need an ESTA authorization. To do this, answer "Yes" to the question about transit to another country in the application form.
If you want to travel to the USA with ESTA, you need a return ticket or an onward ticket that does not take you to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean.
Without such proof of your intended departure within the maximum allowed ESTA stay of 90 days, US border officials have reason to believe that you intend to remain in the United States illegally
You do not have to plan your entire trip at the time of your ESTA application, but you will be asked for your first address in the USA. Here, it is enough if you provide the address of the accommodation that you consider to be the first stop on your trip to the USA.
You do not have to provide a booking voucher, and you can still change the address later.
Please have the following documents and data ready for your ESTA application:
In the case of a group application, you have to enter the listed data for each co-traveler into the ESTA form. If you are missing important information while completing the form, you can submit it to our customer service representatives or via esta-application.com later.
If our ESTA experts notice a potential error while checking your data, you will be contacted immediately. A staff member will assist you in making the correct data entry to avoid rejection of your application by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
There are characteristics or events in a person's life that lead to exclusion from the ESTA process. Therefore, you will be asked several questions during the ESTA application process:
If you answer "yes" to any of these questions, then you must expect a rejection of your ESTA application.
However, this does not mean that you cannot travel to the USA, but only that you need a US visa instead of an ESTA for your trip. This is merely a security precaution of the US authorities.
You will find step-by-step instructions on how to apply for an ESTA in the ESTA Application Guide.
You will also get further information about the Global Entry Membership, all security questions asked in the ESTA form, and the different ESTA service packages available to you.
The US authorities recommend an ESTA application at least 72 hours before your trip to the USA. Real-time approval has not been available since the end of 2018. To be on the safe side, it is best to apply for your ESTA when you start planning your travels.
If you provide false, incomplete, or misleading information in your ESTA application, your travel authorization will likely be denied. It may even result in further consequences. You may face:
After an ESTA rejection, do not attempt to submit another ESTA application with false information. Lying on your ESTA application can result in a lifetime entry ban and criminal persecution.
If you apply for your ESTA directly on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, you won't get back all applicable fees even if your application is denied. The only way to get all your money back is by applying through esta-application.com, whose premium and first-class rates include a money-back guarantee.
Once you have been blocked for the ESTA process, you can only travel to the United States with a US visa which is more complicated and expensive to get approved.
A rejection of your ESTA application does not automatically mean that you are not allowed to travel to the USA.
If necessary, contact your US embassy, consulate, or visa service agency directly and apply for the appropriate visa, for example, the B-2 or B-1 visa.
Although embassies and US consulates are tight-lipped about the details of denied ESTA applications, we know that ESTA denials are often related to technicalities.
About 72 hours after your ESTA application, you can find out whether or not you have been granted travel authorization.
Suppose you submitted your ESTA application through esta-application.com. In that case, you will receive a personal message from the ESTA experts regarding the status of your travel authorization, which you can include in your travel documents.
For all other ESTA applicants, the US government recommends that you check the status on the ESTA web page of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) under "Check Existing Application" before you travel.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security charges $14 per person to apply for an ESTA. This ESTA fee is not per entry but per application, and there is no discount for children, students, or retirees. Unfortunately, if your application is denied, you will only get a partial refund - unless you submitted your ESTA application through esta-application.com.
In addition to the convenient ESTA services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fee is already included in the esta-application.com rates starting at €39.90. Our money-back guarantee protects you in the unlikely event of rejection despite all the precautions taken by our ESTA experts.
Since ESTA is not a visa, the requirements, costs, and waiting times are also less than for a US visa application. However, you also travel with limited rights.
In addition to higher costs and longer waiting times, a visa application, unlike the ESTA process, requires you to submit additional documents and complete an interview appointment.
|Steps in the application process||ESTA||US-Visa|
|Application||Online application||Paper form or online|
|Any other documents required besides a passport?||No||Yes|
|Waiting time||Max. 72 hours||Vary greatly: 15 days and longer|
|Interview appointment required?||No||Yes, except for applicants under 13 and over 80 years of age/td>|
|Costs||From €39.90 (with the support of ESTA-ONLINE experts)||From €150|
|Max. length of stay at a time||90 days||180 days|
|Tourists, business travelers, employees, journalists, students, pupils, trainees|
|Validity||2 years||10 years or based on the purpose for which the visa was issued|
You need a visa instead of an ESTA approval for your trip to the USA if:
Make sure you apply for the visa that fits your travel purpose. Otherwise, your visa application will most likely be denied.
You can change the information in your ESTA form later, even if you have already flown to the USA with your currently valid ESTA authorization.
If you want to change your ESTA data, inform your ESTA-ONLINE travel advisors. The ESTA experts will then make the necessary changes for you.
If you prefer to make the changes yourself, log in to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website using your passport number, date of birth, and application number and navigate to the "RETRIEVE INDIVIDUAL APPLICATION" item.
There are only two reasons that entitle you to make a subsequent change to your ESTA form. These are:
For all other changes, you will need to start a new ESTA application.
If there are any changes in your biographical information after your ESTA application has been approved, then you will need to submit a new ESTA application. This applies, for example, if
Some changes may also require you to apply for a US visa instead of a new ESTA. The visa experts at The American Dream will be happy to advise you on this.
Upon arrival, be prepared for passport checks, conversations with US border personnel, and some waiting time.
Upon arrival in the US, ESTA travelers will initially remain in the waiting hall with all other passengers.
After joining the "Visitors" queue, it may happen that one of the Immigration Officers will ask you to go to an APC (=Automated Passport Control) machine for automatic passport control.
The following scenarios are possible after your arrival at the US airport with ESTA:
(Automated Passport Control)
|Between 5 and 30 minutes||Up to 90 minutes|
|English, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Dutch, German, Chinese (Traditional/Simplified), and Japanese.||English|
|Is done automatically at the APC. After that, you get a receipt to be presented to the Immigration Officer
at the arrival area exit.
|Is done in person by an immigration officer.|
|Can be done automatically at the APC.||Is done manually.|
|Will be done automatically at the APC.||Will be taken by an immigration officer.|
|Will be done automatically at the APC.||Will be taken by an immigration officer.|
|Possibly post-correction of fingerprints and short questions||The immigration officer will ask questions about the planned stay, and the items carried.|
A daily number of ESTA travelers are subject to more thorough screening. The selection criteria for the "examinees" are hardly transparent for outsiders.
If US border patrol agents ask you to go to another room for an in-depth interview, don't panic. Remain calm and answer briefly and truthfully.
Apart from automated passport control for many ESTA travelers, there is another way to shorten waiting times at US airports: the CBP Global Entry Program.
This so-called "Trusted Traveler Program" often reduces the waiting time for frequent flyers to just a few minutes. Global Entry is already available at more than 50 airports in the USA. You can find out whether you are eligible for the Global Entry Program with the Global Entry Check from the US Visa Service of The American Dream.
If your country of citizenship does not participate in the Visa Waiver Program, you do not qualify for ESTA and must apply for a visa for your trip to the USA. You can find a detailed overview of all US visas in our article Entering the USA.
You can apply for ESTA either through ESTA experts such as the US travel consultants at The American Dream or on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.
If you apply directly to the US government, you must not make any mistakes. Otherwise, you risk being blocked from the ESTA process forever. You can only get a thorough check of your data and a personal contact for later corrections at esta-application.com.
ESTA is not a visa but a visa-free travel authorization. Therefore, as an ESTA traveler, you also have limited rights: you may only stay in the USA for private purposes or for short professional occasions.
Not all countries have a National ID or Personal ID number for their citizens. Therefore, other information may be provided in the requested field on the US Customs and Border Protection website.
Your ESTA experts at The American Dream will take care of filling in all the fields correctly. If you are writing your ESTA application on your own, then you can enter the ID card serial number or "Unknown" in this field. You mustn't leave the field blank.
If you have applied for a US visa before and it was denied, then there is a good chance that your ESTA application will be denied as well. In fact, the ESTA application tools will even ask specifically about having had a visa denied in the past. Your options for entering the USA are then limited to another visa application. Be sure to select a visa that fits your travel purpose exactly. If you are unsure, contact the US visa experts at The American Dream.
Whether you need ESTA approval despite your valid US visa depends on the purpose of your trip. For example, if you have a valid B-2 visa (tourist visa), then you no longer need to apply for ESTA approval to enter the US.
However, if you have an E-1 or E-2 visa (commercial/investor visa), for example, then this only entitles you to enter the US for business purposes. If you now want to travel to the USA for a vacation trip outside of your business activities, then you must apply for ESTA approval in addition to your E visa.
When traveling with ESTA, you need a travel authorization for the passport document you want to use during the trip. So, suppose you are a dual citizenship holder and decide at short notice to travel with your second passport document. In that case, you will also need to apply for a second ESTA authorization.
In order not to complicate your entry and exit unnecessarily, decide on one of your two passports before your trip, which you will then use for the entire journey. Otherwise, even if you have two ESTA authorizations, there may be confusion and delays at the border.
Neither a US visa nor an ESTA authorization is a guaranteed entry permit to the USA. The US border agent always makes the final decision about your border crossing into the United States.
Since the automated ESTA process has been in place, USA travelers no longer have to fill out the green paper card called I-94W (Arrival / Departure Record). In the past, it was handed out to passengers during the flight or onboard a ship and collected again at the end of the trip.
All that remains of the "paperwork" is the blue customs declaration.
Even though the introduction of ESTA has reduced paperwork as much as possible, you may still have to fill out the customs declaration manually when entering the USA.
If you do not qualify for Automated Passport Control (APC) (you will find out at the latest while waiting in the immigration queue at the airport), then fill out the form upon arrival. During the passport check at the APC machine, the customs declaration is included.
An ESTA permit is valid for two years but not longer than the expiration date of the passport for which it was issued.
Learn more in our ESTA FAQ at https://www.esta-application.com/esta-faq