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ESTA Application
For Your Trip
to the USA!

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What is ESTA?

ESTA is a computer-based system for traveling to the United States without a visa.

ESTA Logo blau



People from the 41 participating countries of the "Visa Waiver Program" receive a 90-day residence permit in the United States thanks to the "Electronic System for Travel Authorization."

What is ESTA?

ESTA Logo blauESTA is a computer-based system for traveling to the United States without a visa.

People from the 41 participating countries of the "Visa Waiver Program" receive a 90-day residence permit in the United States thanks to the "Electronic System for Travel Authorization."

Advantages of ESTA:

  • Visa-free travel to the USA
  • Stay in the USA for up to 90 days
  • Valid for 2 years
  • Quickly apply online

Apply now

ESTA requirements

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.

ESTA Check

Who is allowed to travel to the USA with ESTA?

As a citizen of one of the 41 Visa Waiver Program countries, you may travel with ESTA if:

  • You hold a valid biometric passport (E-passport) that will not expire during your trip
  • You do not have a valid visitor visa
  • You do not plan to stay in the United States for more than 90 days
  • You plan to travel to the United States for pleasure or short business trips

Update for Israeli travelers

As of October 19th, 2023, Israeli citizens can apply for ESTA and travel visa-free to the USA.

Apply for your ESTA now!

* Applies when booking the Premium and First Class service.

Which countries are eligible for ESTA?

Currently, citizens of the following 40 countries (Visa Waiver Program countries) can use the ESTA program:

Countries eligible for ESTA
Andorra Australia Austria Belgium
Brunei1 Chile Croatia Czech Republic
Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Great Britain Greece Hungary2
Iceland Ireland Israel Italy
Japan Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania
Luxembourg Malta Monaco Netherlands
New Zealand Norway Poland Portugal
San Marino Singapore Slovakia Slovenia
South Korea Spain Sweden Switzerland

1 The validity period of an ESTA authorization for travelers from Brunei has been reduced from two years to one year, effective July 6th, 2023.

2 The validity period of an ESTA authorization for Hungarian travelers has been shortened from two years to one year, effective August 1st, 2023. In addition, Hungarians are now only allowed to enter the US once per ESTA and also require a Hungarian birth certificate for the ESTA process.

What am I allowed to do in the USA with ESTA?

An ESTA travel authorization entitles you to engage in tourist and certain business activities in the USA.

What is allowed with ESTA?

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:

  • Recreation
    You are allowed to vacation in the US, visit friends and relatives, and participate privately in events and competitions.
  • Professional activities and training
    You may meet business partners for consultations, negotiate contracts, attend scientific, educational, or business conferences, and attend short-term training and private recreational study.
  • Medical treatment
    You are also allowed to undergo medical treatment in the US with ESTA. However, make sure you have complete documentation of medical certificates and insurance benefits or financial reserves at the border to avoid being classified as a suspect (an expected financial burden to the US) by US border officials.
  • Transit/Transfer
    ESTA allows you to transit to the US.

What is not allowed with ESTA?

ESTA sets clear limits in the professional or educational field, as well as in the length of stay:

  • Work, School, and Study
    ESTA does not allow you to study, go to school, take professional employment, or enter the US as a representative of the press, radio, film, or other information media.
  • Residency and US Immigration
    As an ESTA traveler, you may not extend your stay, nor may you be or apply to become a permanent resident (holder of a Green Card) of the United States.

Who does not qualify for US travel with ESTA?

You may not travel to the USA with ESTA if:

  • Your country of citizenship is not a member of the Visa Waiver Program
  • You do not have a valid passport (E-passport)
  • You have already applied for ESTA once and were denied
  • You already have a valid visitor visa for the USA
  • You traveled to North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1st, 2011, or to Cuba since January 12th, 2021.
  • You are a citizen of Cuba, North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, in addition to being a citizen of a VWP country

If one or more of the above applies to you, you must request a US visa instead of ESTA.

Do children need an ESTA for the USA?

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.

Is ESTA also required for transit?

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.

ESTA without a return flight

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.

ESTA without specific travel plans

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.

ESTA application

An ESTA application consists of several steps. Prepare yourself by having all the required information ready before you start your application.

Data for the ESTA application

Please have the following documents and data ready for your ESTA application:

  • A valid biometric passport (E-passport)
  • A photo of your passport data page as jpg, jpeg, png, or gif
  • A valid email address
  • Your home address and telephone number
  • Your alias and other names you use (nickname)
  • If available: your National Identity Number (also called Personal ID Number)
  • Address and telephone number of your employer
  • Name, address, and phone number of your first accommodation in the USA (if it is not a transit)
  • Your social media accounts (this information is optional but clearly conducive to approval)

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 later.

If the USA experts from 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.

Important questions in the ESTA application

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:

  • Do you suffer from physical or mental disabilities that make you a danger to yourself or others?
  • Do you abuse drugs, or have you committed law violations involving intoxicants?
  • Do you suffer from illnesses that are contagious to others and likely to be fatal?
  • Are you planning, or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?
  • Are you seeking a job in the United States, or have you ever been employed in the United States without authorization?
  • Have you ever been denied a US visa or entry into the United States?
  • Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than allowed?
  • Have you been in Iraq, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen since March 2011?
  • Have you ever been denied an ESTA authorization?
  • Do you have a criminal record?
  • Have you ever provided false information in an ESTA registration?
  • Have you ever applied for an immigrant visa to the United States?

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.

How to complete the ESTA application

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.

When do I have to submit the ESTA application?

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.

The consequences of mistakes in an ESTA application

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:

  • Entry bans
  • Criminal charges (in case of intentional misrepresentation)
  • A lifetime ban on the ESTA process

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, 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.

ESTA rejected: Is a visa for the USA still possible?

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.

ESTA Status

About 72 hours after your ESTA application, you can find out whether or not you have been granted travel authorization.

How to check your ESTA status

Suppose you submitted your ESTA application through In that case, you will receive a personal message from the USA experts from 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.

ESTA costs

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security charges $ 21 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 submit your ESTA application through

In addition to the convenient ESTA services, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security fee is already included in the rates starting at €49.90. Our money-back guarantee protects you in the unlikely event of rejection despite all the precautions taken by the ESTA experts from

ESTA or Visa?

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.

What is the difference between ESTA and visa?

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.






Paper form + Online

Any other documents required besides a passport?



Wait time

Max. 72 hours

15 days and longer

Interview appointment required?

No Yes


From € 49.90 (with the support from the expert team at From €185

Max.  length of stay at a time

90 days 180 days

Suitable for

Tourists, Business travelers, Transit Tourists, business travelers, employees, journalists, students, pupils, trainees


2 years 10 years or based on the purpose for which the visa was issued

When to apply for a US visa instead of an ESTA

You need a visa instead of an ESTA approval for your trip to the USA if:

  • You want to work, study, or attend school in the United States
  • You intend to stay in the USA for more than 90 days
  • The US authorities have denied an ESTA application of you in the past
  • You want to travel to the USA as a representative of the foreign press, radio, film, or other information media
  • You are not a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country
  • You intend to apply for an immigrant visa

Make sure you apply for the visa that fits your travel purpose. Otherwise, your visa application will most likely be denied.

How to change your ESTA application

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.

Change data for ESTA afterward

If you want to change your ESTA data, inform your travel advisors. The ESTA experts from 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.

Reasons for changing your ESTA data

There are only two reasons that entitle you to make a subsequent change to your ESTA form. These are:

  • The change of your email address
  • The change of your first overnight address in the USA.

For all other changes, you will need to start a new ESTA application.

Reasons for 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

  • You change your name
  • You change your gender
  • You change your citizenship
  • Your circumstances change in such a way that you would now have to answer the questions in your ESTA application differently, for example, because you have been convicted of a crime or you have caught a contagious disease.

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.

Arriving in the USA with ESTA

Upon arrival, be prepared for passport checks, conversations with US border personnel, and some waiting time.

Which waiting line is right for ESTA travelers?

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:


With APC

Without APC

Waiting time

Between 5 and 30 minutes

Up to 90 minutes


English, Spanish, French, Italian, Korean, Dutch, German, Chinese (Traditional/Simplified), and Japanese.


Passport control

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.


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.

Border crossing

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.

Frequently asked questions about ESTA

Can I prevent queues at the airport with ESTA?

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.

Can I get an ESTA without the Visa Waiver Program?

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.

How do I get an ESTA travel authorization?

You can apply for ESTA either through ESTA experts, such as the US travel consultants at, 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

Is ESTA equivalent to a visa?

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.

Where can I find my National ID or Personal ID number for the ESTA application?

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 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.

USA visa denied: Can I enter with ESTA?

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.

Do I have to apply for ESTA even though I have a valid US visa?

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.

Dual citizenship: ESTA for both passports?

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.

Can I be denied entry at the US border despite ESTA?

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.

As an ESTA traveler, do I need to fill out Form I-94W?

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).

Where to fill out the US customs declaration (Form 6059B)

The paper customs declaration form (CBP Form 6059B) was abolished for environmental reasons and replaced by the electronic declaration at passport control.

How long is ESTA valid?

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

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