If you want to visit the US for a brief period, either for business or pleasure, you may qualify for travel authorization under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) program. Citizens of 38 countries who have valid e-passports are eligible to travel to the US with an ESTA. You can apply for an ESTA quickly and easily by visiting the official website of US Customs and Border Control (CBP). However, keep in mind that having an ESTA doesn’t guarantee you’ll be allowed to enter the US.
Method 1 Method 1 of 2:Completing Your Application Download Article
Confirm that you are eligible for an ESTA. Generally, you may be eligible for an ESTA if you’re planning to travel to the US for business or pleasure and stay for 90 days or less. You must be a citizen or eligible national of a country that is included in the US’s Visa Waiver Program, and you must have a valid e-passport.
- An e-passport has an embedded electronic chip for enhanced security. If you have an e-passport, there will be a symbol on the cover. The symbol looks a bit like a microchip and is the same in every country.
- If you’re not sure if your country is included in the Visa Waiver Program, go to https://www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program-requirements and check the list.
Tip: You don’t need an ESTA if you’re traveling into the US from Canada, as long as you are a national of one of the countries in the Visa Waiver Program.
Visit the official CBP website. Have your passport handy and go to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/. Click the blue button at the top of the page to start a new application. If you want to complete several applications at once for other people who are traveling with you, scroll down and click the white “Group of Applications” button.
- You can submit applications for up to 50 people at once.
- If you don’t have access to the internet, you can get someone else to submit the application on your behalf. CBP only accepts ESTA applications online.
Enter your information. Use your passport to provide basic information about yourself, such as your name, address, gender, date of birth, and nationality. The information you provide on your ESTA application must match the information on your passport exactly. All information must be provided in English.
- The ESTA application does not have “X” as an option for gender. If you have “X” as your gender on your passport, select the gender you feel most comfortable with. Your application won’t be denied just because the genders don’t match.
- If your passport was issued in a country other than the country of your nationality, enter the country of your nationality for “Passport Issuing Country,” not the physical location where your passport was issued.
- In addition to biographical information, you must also answer questions regarding your eligibility to enter the US. These questions cover things such as communicable diseases, your criminal record, past trips to the US, and immigration violations.
Pay the fee and submit your application. After you complete your application, you’ll have the opportunity to review your answers. Double-check them carefully to make sure your answers match the information on your passport. Once you pay your fee and submit your application, you won’t be able to go back and change any of your answers.
- You must also provide a valid email address so you can receive notices about your application from CBP.
- The fee for an ESTA, as of 2019, is $14. You can pay with any major credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover, JCB, or Diners Club) or through PayPal.
- If you’re submitting multiple applications, you’ll owe a $14 fee for each application you submit.
Receive email confirmation of your application. Immediately after your application is submitted, you’ll get an email from CBP confirming receipt. The email will include your application number or group application number (if you submitted multiple applications at once).
- You can use your application number to check the status of your application on the ESTA website. Simply go to the same website where you submitted your application.
Wait for a response on your application. Once your application is submitted, your information will be verified electronically. Typically, you’ll find out within a few minutes. If your situation is more complex, it may take up to 72 hours for your application to be processed. You may receive one of the following responses:
- Authorization approved means you are approved for travel to the US.
- Travel not authorized means you must apply for a tourist visa at your nearest US embassy or consulate before you can travel to the US.
- Authorization pending means you should check your application status through the ESTA website. It may take up to 72 hours for you to receive a final response.
Tip: Print out a copy of your response with your application number and take it with you to the US in case you need to provide confirmation of your ESTA status at the border.
Method 2 Method 2 of 2:Entering the US Download Article
Plan your travel to the US. Once you have your ESTA, you can book your flight or other travel plans and make arrangements for accommodations while visiting the US. Keep in mind that your ESTA only authorizes you to board a plane headed to the US – it does not mean that you are guaranteed entry into the country.
- The CBP recommends that you get your ESTA before you make your travel arrangements because, if your ESTA isn’t approved, you’ll have to apply for a tourist visa, which is a much longer process.
- After you’ve booked your flight, you can enter the information on the ESTA website for your account. Access your account using your application number, then select “Travel Information” using the update function.
Tip: If you are arriving at the US by land transport, you generally don’t need an ESTA. You can complete the process at the border.
Provide your airline with your advance passenger information. When you book your international flight, your airline will need passport information for you and any others who are traveling with you. The information you must provide includes:
- Your passport details
- Your country of residence
- The address of your accommodations in the US
Present your passport with your ESTA to a CBP agent. When you arrive at the border, you will need to go through a CBP checkpoint. Your passport must be valid for at least the length of your trip to the US. However, you don’t need any additional validity. The CBP agent may ask you questions about the purpose of your visit and the activities you have planned during your stay.
- Your ESTA is only valid for a single passport. If you get a new passport before you travel, you’ll have to apply for another ESTA for that passport. If you have a passport for more than one country, you must travel with the passport you used to get your ESTA.
- There are travel agencies and other companies that will file an ESTA application for you for a fee. There’s no need to use these companies because it is easy enough to apply for an ESTA yourself. If you use a travel agency or other company, you will pay more than you would if you applied with the CBP directly. Thanks! Helpful 0 Not Helpful 0