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Currently, citizens from 38 countries (the United Kingdom included) benefit from the VISA Waiver Program (VWP); this allows entry to the United States, as well as 5 Asian countries without a visa for stays of 90 days or less. As of January 12, 2009, eligible travellers are required to complete an online form issued by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This replaces the paper form that was previously distributed to passengers on aircraft/ships before arriving to America.

New York

Warning: There are many websites that try to scam you into paying money for information about ESTA. This information is free on their website!

If you wish to find out more about ESTA and how it works, continue reading our comprehensive guide. 


Should I apply for ESTA?
All travellers who do not require a visa, as well as children over 8 months of age, whether accompanied or not, are obliged to apply for ESTA. This includes:
  • Those who are travelling for business and / or pleasure;
  • Those who are staying in the United States for less than 90 days;
  • Those who have a return ticket;
  • Those who must travel to the country by air or sea; anyone who can reach the country by road does not need to apply for ESTA (i.e. if you drive to the United States from Canada).

If the United States is not your final destination and you are only passing through, it is not necessary to fill out the address section in the application; you should only specify you are “in transit”.

Is ESTA a visa?

No, the “ESTA” authorization is not a visa. It is a measure of control that helps immigration officials identify and keep track of travellers who enter the country.

Does ESTA ensure my entry into the United States?

No, not necessarily. Under the VWP, ESTA essentially allows you board a plane/ship departing from an airport or port in America.

How should I apply for ESTA?

To apply for ESTA, you will need to access their website and follow the instructions provided. This service costs $14, and upon completion of the application, the majority of travellers will receive immediate confirmation.

What is the deadline for submitting my application?

You must submit your application at least 72 hours before the scheduled date of departure.

What information is necessary to complete my application?

You are required to provide specific information about your identity (name, date of birth and passport number) and your trip (name of airline, flight number and destination). You will also be asked to answer questions based on the criteria for admission under the VWP (infectious diseases, arrests or convictions, etc.). Make sure the data you submit matches your passport and flight information.

What documentation do I need ?

To apply for ESTA, you need one of the following:

    • An electronic passport issued on or after 26 October, 2006;
    • A machine-readable passport issued or renewed before 26 October, 2005;
    • A passport with a digital photograph issued between 26 October, 2005 and 26 October, 2006.

How do I correct any errors in the application form?

If you made a mistake when entering your identification data, you are required to submit a new application. Any “secondary data” errors, such as your email address, the name of the airline or the flight number can be corrected in the  “update” section on the ESTA website.

How long will it take until I receive my permit?

In most cases, applicants receive their permit immediately. The electronic system of travel authorization provides 3 possible answers: authorization granted, authorization to be confirmed and authorization denied. Once the request has been authorized, the traveler can travel to the U.S. under the VWP. Travellers should print and carry with them the confirmation page.

What should I do if my authorization is denied?

If your request is denied, you should refer to the U.S. Department of State and apply for a visa. For more information please visit www.travel.state.gov. In case of rejection, any traveller can try to renew his request after a time interval of 10 days, provided that his/her situation has changed.

How long is the ESTA valid for?

The travel authorization is valid for 2 years and the recipient can enter the United States several times during this period without needing to request any further approval. If your ESTA is approved and your passport expires before the ESTA does, your travel authorization will only be valid until the expiration date of your passport.

Should I renew my ESTA authorization?

The permit should only be renewedin the following cases:

  • renewal of passport
  • change of identification data


*the above mentioned information has been updated in April, 2014.

We hope this post was useful. We urge you to review the current requirements on the official ESTA page before applying. The Opodo team wishes you a pleasant stay in the United States!

4 responses to “How to Apply for ESTA

  1. Although you state that “This service is free, and upon completion of the application, the majority of travellers will receive immediate confirmation.” this is incorrect. You will be required to make a payment using a MasterCard, VISA, American Express, or Discover (JCB, Diners Club) so perhaps you should update the guide to mention this?

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