ESTA USA: What is ESTA and do I need to apply?

ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is an online application system related to travellers from Visa Waiver Countries who wish to enter the United States (US) for tourism or transit, or for business or medical reasons. The purpose of ESTA USA is to pre-screen travellers bound for the US by air or sea. ESTA Travel authorisations are normally valid for two years. When travelling to the US with an ESTA Travel authorisation, you are allowed to stay for a maximum of 90 days.

How long does it take to apply for ESTA?

It takes between five and ten minutes to complete the ESTA online application form. You will probably receive your travel authorisation by email within 24 hours of submission.

Where can I apply for ESTA?

We help you to apply successfully for your ESTA USA authorisation. It is not necessary to have a flight ticket or hotel booking in order to submit your application. We recommend you submit the form at least 72 hours in advance of your departure. Apply online here.

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a United States government Program that enables citizens from all the Visa Waiver Countries to enter the US for business, pleasure or transit without obtaining a tourist visa in advance. The advantage of entering the US with an travel authorisation is that you can travel there on short notice. However, not everybody can enter the US under the VWP: only citizens of the Visa Waiver Countries are eligible to apply.

Requirements to apply for ESTA online

It is important to know if you are qualified for an ESTA authorisation before you submit your online application. The requirements are that:

  • The traveller has a valid passport lawfully issued by a VWP country;
  • The traveller has no criminal record in the US;
  • The traveller intends to enter the US for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit;
  • The traveller is a citizen or national of one of the VWP countries;
  • No forms need to be printed and you are not required to go to a US embassy or consulate in person.

Requirements to enter the United States

Before travelling to the US, you should take some time to get to know the different regulations to avoid unexpected incidents at your arrival.

First of all, electronic devices with a low or empty battery may not be brought on board certain flights. Your mobile phone charge may be checked at any time and any infringement may mean you are not allowed to embark. During the flight, you will be required to fill out Customs form 6059-B. This form will be used to keep track of any specific items being brought into the country. When you go through Border Control, the I-94 form will be created. For travellers arriving by air, this is no longer handed out in paper form, but can be obtained electronically.

When you pass through the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), your documents will be reviewed. In addition, a CBP officer will perform the US-VISIT process, whereby your fingerprint and a photo will be taken and your identity checked by use of this biometric data. US officials are also authorised to know details of your travel plans and you are therefore advised to bring a copy of your travel documents with you. In addition, you may have to present documents showing you have sufficient financial resources. On completion of these procedures, you will go through Customs.

You must be in possession of a passport which remains valid throughout your trip, including the day of departure. There are certain exceptions to this rule for certain countries; more detailed information is available on the CBD website. If the traveller does not have an ESTA travel authorisation, a visa is required. Routine checks of luggage and baggage are possible, even if you have nothing to declare. To make sure that you have nothing to declare, check the complete list of items to declare on www.cbp.gov. If you are travelling by land from Canada or Mexico, you may need to present your driver’s licence, vehicle documentation and proof of liability insurance.