What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

ESTA is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It requires the same information as the paper I-94W form.

Why is a travel authorization via ESTA required for VWP travelers?

U.S. legislation required the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement an electronic travel authorization system and other measures to enhance the security of the VWP. ESTA adds a 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 VWP and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.

Who needs to submit an electronic travel authorization?

All nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure for 90 days or less under the VWP will need authorization via ESTA to travel to the U.S. If a traveler is planning to transit through the United States to another country, an authorization via ESTA is still required.

What information does a traveler need in order to complete the travel authorization form?

The traveler must provide, in English, biographical data including name, birth date and passport information. The traveler must also answer VWP eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, past history of visa revocation or deportation and other questions. The traveler will also need credit card information to pay the associated fees in order to complete the ESTA application.

What information does a traveler need in order to complete the travel authorization form?

Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. We recommend that travel authorization applications are to be submitted as soon as travel is planned. DHS realizes that not all travels are planned in advance, and applications for last-minute or emergency travel will be accommodated. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA, but if the information is available, applicants are encouraged to provide their destination addresses and itineraries.

How much time does it take for the system to process my application?

Once a traveler’s application has been successfully submitted online, in most cases an immediate determination of eligibility for travel is provided.

What are the possible responses I may receive?

Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.
Travel Not Authorized: Traveler must obtain a non immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the U.S.
Authorization Pending: Traveler will need to check the ESTA Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.

How long is my travel authorization valid?

Travel authorizations are generally valid for two years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. A visitor may travel to the U.S. repeatedly within the validity period without having to apply for another ESTA.

Do I ever need to reapply for travel authorization through ESTA?

Yes, a new travel authorization via ESTA is required when: (1) the traveler is issued a new passport; (2) the traveler changes his or her name; (3) the traveler changes his or her gender; (4) the traveler’s country of citizenship changes; or (5) the circumstances underlying the traveler’s previous responses to any of the ESTA application questions requiring a “yes” or “no” response have changed. ESTA approvals are typically granted for a two–year period or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever come first. ESTA provides validity dates upon approval of the application. Therefore, a traveler must apply for a new ESTA when the prior ESTA approval or passport expires. The associated fee will be charged for each new application submitted.

If I am approved through ESTA to travel to the U.S., does that mean I can enter the country?

Not necessarily. Approval only authorizes a traveler to board a plane or cruise ship for travel to the United States without a visa. In all cases, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers make admissibility determinations at ports of entry or preclearance facilities.

Do VWP travelers need to bring a paper printout of their ESTA approval to the airport?

No. DHS communicates a traveler’s ESTA status to the carriers. However, DHS recommends that travelers make a print out the ESTA application response in order to maintain a record of their ESTA application number. I forgot my ESTA application number.

How can I log back into the system to update my information or check my application status?

If a traveler loses, forgets, or does not have access to his or her application number or travel status, he or she may retrieve the application number, through the ESTA website by entering the applicant’s name, date of birth, passport number and passport issuing country.

If a VWP traveler has received ESTA approval, does he or she also need to fill out an I-94W?

The implementation of the ESTA program allows DHS to eliminate the requirement that VWP travelers complete an I-94W prior to being admitted to the United States. CBP has transitioned to paperless processing in most cases for VWP travelers arriving by air or sea who have obtained an ESTA authorization. Most travelers, entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, who have an approved ESTA will no longer need to fill out the I-94W form and the green I-94W departure card will no longer be placed in their passport. The I-94W form will still be required at the land border.

What should I do if I am denied a travel authorization?

If an application for travel authorization is denied and the traveler wishes to continue with the trip, he/she will be required to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For more about visa application procedures, please visit www.travel.state.gov.

Do I need to apply for a travel authorization via ESTA as well?

No, individuals who possess a valid visa may travel to the United States with that visa for the purpose it was issued, and will not be required to apply for travel authorization through ESTA.

First Time ESTA Applicant?
ESTA applicants should apply for their U.S. travel authorizations at least 72 hours prior traveling to the United States. Download our Application Package and apply with confidence today.
Update your Travel Authorization?
Travelers who have already been approved for ESTA can verify and update their application online. However, the U.S. government has not yet made this a mandatory requirement.