ESTA

To strengthen the security of travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, requirements to travel visa-free have been enhanced. Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries will still be eligible to travel without a visa but will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States for business or pleasure, for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers admitted under the Visa Waiver Program must agree to waive their rights to review or appeal, as explained in the Waiver of Rights section of the Application screen.

You are eligible to apply for admission under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) if you:

  • Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit
  • Have a valid passport lawfully issued to you by a Visa Waiver Program country
  • Have authorization to travel via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
  • Arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier
  • Have a return or onward ticket
  • Travel may not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas
  • Are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries listed below:
Andorra
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brunei
Chile
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Monaco
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
Republic of Malta
San Marino
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan[1]
United Kingdom
 
 
 
 
  • Establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting United States Customs and Border Protection officer that you are entitled to be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and that you are not inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Waive any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Reaffirm, through the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the United States, your waiver of any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Obtain an Authorization Approved determination following a travel authorization application.
  • Not pose a threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the United States.
  • Have complied with all conditions of any previous admission under the Visa Waiver Program.

Here is how the travel authorization process works:

The Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection have provided a secure public Web site with an automated form for you, or a third party, to complete in order to apply for a travel authorization. Once you enter the required biographic, travel, and credit card information on the secure Web site, your application is processed by the system to determine if you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa. The system will provide you with an automated response, and prior to boarding, a carrier will electronically verify with the United States Customs and Border Protection that you have an approved travel authorization on file.

Why is it necessary to expand the amount of ESTA information being collected from VWP travelers?

Since 9/11, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has evolved from a travel facilitation program concerned about the threat of economic migration to one with more robust security standards that are designed to prevent terrorists and other criminal actors from exploiting the Program. The requirement for all VWP travelers to complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States was introduced by The Secure Travel and Counterterrorism Partnership Act of 2007 (part of the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007, also known as the "9/11 Act") (Pub. L. No. 110-53) to improve the screening of individual travelers from VWP countries.

DHS must be agile and vigilant in continually adapting to evolving threats and hazards. DHS has not made a significant upgrade to ESTA data elements currently used in the ESTA application in the six years that the system has been in operation, despite a significant evolution in the terrorist and criminal threats to the United States. DHS has determined that the additional data fields to the ESTA application will enhance DHS’s ability to screen and more accurately and effectively identify travelers who pose a potential security risk to the homeland.

Who is required to have a travel authorization?

All passengers traveling under the Visa Waiver Program are required to have an approved travel authorization prior to traveling to the United States by air or sea. Even non-ticketed infants are required to have an approved travel authorization, if they do not have a visa for travel to the United States. An application may be submitted by a third party on behalf of a Visa Waiver Program traveler.

Does a travel authorization guarantee me admission to the United States?

If your electronic travel authorization is approved, this approval establishes that you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, but does not guarantee that you are admissible to the United States. Upon arrival in the United States you will be inspected by a Customs and Border Protection officer at a port of entry who may determine that you are inadmissible under the Visa Waiver Program or for any reason under United States law.

Is a travel authorization a visa?

No, an approved travel authorization is not a visa. It does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a United States visa when a visa is required under United States law. Individuals who possess a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose for which it was issued. Individuals traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for a travel authorization.

How long is my travel authorization valid?

Unless revoked, travel authorizations are valid for two years from the date of authorization, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. The Authorization Approved screen displays your travel authorization expiration date.

When do I need to apply for a travel authorization?

Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security recommends that travel authorization applications be submitted at least 72 hours prior to travel. Unless revoked, travel authorizations are valid for two years from the date of authorization, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first.

Can prospective travelers apply to ESTA for a travel authorization without specific travel plans if they want to be able to travel to the United States on short notice?

Yes. Specific travel plans are not mandatory at the time of application.

Do nationals or citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program require travel authorization if they are only transiting the United States en route to another country?

Eligible nationals or citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program require either a travel authorization or a visa to transit the United States. If a traveler is only planning to transit through the United States en route to another country, when he or she completes the travel authorization application in ESTA, the traveler should select "Yes" to the question "Is your travel to the US occurring in transit to another country?".

Can a Visa Waiver Program traveler with more than one passport travel to the United States on the passport that he or she did not use when applying for a travel authorization?

No. Each Visa Waiver Program traveler must have an approved travel authorization for the passport they plan to use before they travel to the United States. If a traveler obtains a new passport, they must submit a new travel authorization application in ESTA using the new passport. A processing fee will be charged for each new application submitted.

If a Visa Waiver Program traveler has received a travel authorization approval through ESTA, does he or she need to fill out an I-94W?

The implementation of the ESTA program allowed DHS to eliminate the requirement that Visa Waiver Program travelers complete an I-94W prior to being admitted to the United States. CBP has transitioned to paperless processing for Visa Waiver Program travelers arriving by air or sea who have obtained a travel authorization. Most carriers are now capable of receiving and validating messages pertaining to the traveler's ESTA status as part of the traveler's boarding status. Travelers entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program who have an approved travel authorization will no longer be given a green I-94W departure coupon in their passport.

Why is authorization under ESTA required for United States-bound travel under the Visa Waiver Program?

The "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007" (9/11 Act) amended Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), requiring that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implement an electronic travel authorization system and other measures to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA adds another layer of security that allows DHS to determine, in advance of travel, whether an individual is eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

You can apply for a authorization to travel to the United States on this website:
https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

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Applying for a Travel Authorization

How do I apply for authorization to travel to the United States?

Step 1: Complete Your Application

Enter all required information. You will be asked to provide: basic biographic information; information from your VWP eligible passport and other passports; your current or previous employer; your address and point of contact in the United States; an emergency point of contact; and credit card information. You will also be asked to answer eight security questions. Each member of your party must have an approved travel authorization or a visa, regardless of age, prior to traveling to the United States.

Step 2: Submit Your Application

Review your answers for accuracy. To make corrections, return to the application by selecting the Previous button.

Step 3: Record Your Application Number

After you submit your application, the system will provide you with an application number. Record this application number for your records. If you want to check the status or to update your application, you will be asked to provide your application number, passport number, and date of birth

Step 4: Make Payment

Enter your credit information for payment of fees associated with the Travel Promotion Act of 2009.

Step 5: View Your Application Status

In most cases the Electronic System for Travel Authorization will return an Application Status immediately. In cases where more time is needed to process an electronic travel authorization application, an answer will be usually returned within 72 hours. Information will be provided to check the application status if you receive a pending response. The three possible responses to an electronic travel authorization application are:

  • Authorization Approved. Your travel authorization has been approved and you are authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The system displays confirmation of the application approval and a payment receipt notice showing the amount charged to your credit card. A travel authorization does not guarantee admission to the United States as a Customs and Border Protection officer at a port of entry will have the final determination.
  • Travel Not Authorized. You are not authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. You may be able to obtain a visa from the Department of State for your travel. Please visit the United States Department of State Web site at www.travel.state.gov for additional information about applying for a visa. This response does not deny entry into the United States. This response only prohibits you from traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The system also displays a payment receipt notice showing the amount charged to your credit card for the processing of the ESTA application.
  • Authorization Pending. Your travel authorization is under review because an immediate determination could not be made for your application. This response does not indicate negative findings. A determination will usually be available within 72 hours. Please return to this Web site and choose Retrieve Previously-Submitted Authorization to Travel to the United States for One or More Persons. Your application number, passport number, and birth date will be required to check the status of your application.

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About Amerika Reis

Amerika Reis grew from a passion for travelling to the United States of America. Planning a roadtrip takes a lot of time and effort. This website is intended to help you with your search for the right information by gathering all relevant information in one place. The pure information is complemented by our own experiences.