The ESTA for the United States (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows travelers from certain countries to enter the U.S. for 90 days without a visa. Tourists and business travelers who are visiting the U.S. from countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program may apply for an ESTA.
If you’d like to travel to the United States, but you’re worried about the ESTA application, I’ll tell you everything you need to know about this process. We’ve been living in the USA for years now, and whenever our family or friends come to visit, they get this travel authorization. So, we have a lot of experience in requesting an ESTA for the United States.
We usually use the official ESTA website to apply, but if we’re in a hurry, we use iVISA. The iVISA website is super simple and expedites the application process, so I recommend it if you’re in a rush. In this guide, I’ll show you how to apply for an ESTA on the official website as well as through iVISA.
- Who needs an ESTA for the United States
- How to apply for the ESTA
- Requirements for the ESTA application
- What to do if your ESTA application is denied
- How long is the ESTA to the USA valid
- How much does the USA ESTA cost
- Other important information about the ESTA
What is an ESTA for the USA?
Since January 12, 2009, all visa-exempt travelers arriving in the United States by air, land, or sea must apply for an ESTA.
The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows travelers from countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program to enter the U.S. without a visa for tourist or business reasons (like conferences or events) for up to 90 days.
The primary purpose of the USA ESTA is to allow the Department of Homeland Security to pre-screen travelers before they leave their home country. Therefore, your application for the ESTA must be processed in a timely manner.
Who needs an ESTA for the United States?
Travelers who arrive from any of the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program and who are going to be in the U.S. for up to 90 days for tourist or business reasons may apply for the ESTA. Those who are going to have a layover in the U.S. must also have an ESTA for the United States, even if their destination is in another country.
The ESTA isn’t valid for travelers who are coming to the U.S. to work or study, even if they’ll be in the country for less than 90 days. In their case, they’ll need a work or study visa.
Below is a list of all the countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, and must have an ESTA to travel to the USA:
How to apply for the ESTA online
You can request the ESTA through the official website or through iVISA. Most of the time, we use the official ESTA website. However, if we’re in a hurry, we’ll use iVISA. This website is super intuitive and ensures you’ll be approved for your ESTA.
If you’re going to apply for the ESTA online through the official website, I recommend doing it in advance, just in case there are any issues. Keep in mind that an ESTA for the USA is valid for 24 months from the approval date, so you shouldn’t have any problems applying in advance. However, if your passport expires within the next 24 months, so will your ESTA.
Use the official ESTA website application
You can fill out an ESTA application for the USA through the official website here. You’ll fill out a form with the applicant’s required information:
You’ll also have to provide information about your social media presence, your parents, and your employer:
There is also a section where you’ll answer a series of questions to verify your eligibility for a USA ESTA:
While filling out this form takes some time, it’s crucial for your ESTA application, so make sure all the information is correct. Otherwise, you could be denied.
Once you’ve completed and submitted your online ESTA application, you’ll have to make a payment by credit or debit card. A $21 payment is required to process your application.
Once the application is approved, your ESTA authorization will arrive via email in as little as three days.
If you have any questions or concerns while you’re filling out your application, you can access a webpage with FAQs here.
Apply for the ESTA through iVISA
You can also apply for a United States ESTA through iVISA, which is what we use when we want to quickly get an ESTA or any other visa to another country.
If you apply for an ESTA online through iVISA, you’ll have to fill out a form, but it’s a much faster process because the website pre-populates the form for you. You can finish your application on iVISA in about five minutes.
Another great thing about iVISA is that you can apply for multiple ESTAs at the same time. Just fill in the data for the first applicant, then click “Add another person” and put in their information:
Once your information has been completed and verified, you have a few options depending on how quickly you need the ESTA. The price depends on the processing time but varies from $60.99 for 24 hours to $150.99 for two hours. You’ll receive the authorization by email.
The last thing to do is to pay the corresponding amount by credit card, PayPal, Venmo, or Google Pay:
Without a doubt, this is the best option if you need your ESTA for the United States as soon as possible. I’d also like to add that iVISA has a 24/7 customer support chat and a contact form on its website.
How iVISA makes it easier to get an ESTA online
Whenever we travel to a foreign country, we go to the iVISA website to check what type of documentation we need. With iVISA, you can request a visa for almost any country, so it’s the perfect resource for frequent travelers.
One of the main advantages of using iVISA instead of the official ESTA website is that the application form is much easier to fill out. Plus, iVISA is available in multiple languages, including Spanish, Italian, German, and Chinese. Overall, the process is much simpler since iVISA presents the information and entry requirements in a clear and detailed manner.
Another benefit of iVISA is the fast delivery times. After completing your ESTA application and making your payment, you’ll get your travel authorization by email within 24 hours. In comparison, the official ESTA website takes 72 hours or more to deliver your authorization.
Also, if you have any doubts or questions during the application process, iVISA’s professional and multilingual staff is there to chat 24/7. There is also an online contact form, so you can quickly and easily get in touch with someone rather than reading through a bunch of FAQs.
Finally, iVISA reviews your application thoroughly to ensure you have the highest chance of approval. If you use the official site, you may miss something and get denied, which makes the process of applying for an ESTA even longer.
So, I highly recommend iVISA for its simplicity and its quick ESTA processing times.
Requirements for the ESTA application
Everyone who applies for an ESTA must meet a series of requirements, otherwise, they could be denied. Since these requirements are subject to change, we update this article regularly based on the information published on the official website.
Below are the requirements to be approved for an ESTA for the United States:
One of the basic requirements to apply for the ESTA is to have a passport from one of the countries belonging to the Visa Waiver: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom.
Also, it’s important that your passport is valid at the time of applying for the ESTA and during your trip, especially since authorization is typically valid for 24 months. However, the authorization will also expire if your passport expires within those 24 months.
As of April 1, 2016, your passport should be electronic (an e-passport) with a chip or else you risk being denied boarding, even if you have an ESTA.
Purpose of trip
An ESTA for the USA applies to trips under 90 days, so you must be able to show a return ticket to your country or to a country other than the U.S.
Also, this travel authorization is only valid for certain trips, specifically tourism, visits to see friends or family, or business purposes like conferences and events. You can also apply for an ESTA if you’re traveling to the United States to take a short-term course that won’t result in a degree.
Remember, you can’t request an ESTA if you’re going to work in the U.S. or take a course that gives you credit toward a degree.
The application for the ESTA can be completed through the official website or iVISA. You must make sure that all the information on your application is correct, and payment is required.
While the ESTA processing time is usually fast, you should request travel authorization at least 72 hours before your trip.
If you’re traveling by air or sea, you’ll need a ticket to a destination outside the United States. If your ticket is electronic, you must have a copy of the itinerary. Travelers arriving by land from Canada or Mexico must present Form I-94W, which is provided at U.S. ports of entry.
You’ll also need an ESTA if you’re passing through the United States on your way to another destination. The length of this stopover can be any duration under 90 days.
What to do if your ESTA application is denied
Your application for an ESTA could be denied for several reasons, such as not meeting the above requirements. The ESTA to the USA can also be denied to people who:
- Have committed misdemeanors without arrest or conviction
- Have a criminal record
- Have been arrested
- Have a contagious disease
- Have been denied entry to the U.S.
- Have been deported from the U.S.
- Have illegally prolonged their stay in the U.S.
- Have been to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011
- Have dual nationality as a citizen of a Visa Waiver country and Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria
If your ESTA application is denied, you’ll have to apply for a visa.
If the application has been denied because of an error in completing the form, you must start a new application.
How long is the ESTA to the USA valid?
The ESTA for the USA is valid for 24 months from the date it is issued. If your passport expires before those 24 months are up, your ESTA will also expire. That said, your ESTA application won’t be approved if your passport is going to expire in the next six months.
During the 24 months that your ESTA is valid, you can make multiple layovers or entries into the U.S., as long as your stay doesn’t exceed 90 days.
How much does the USA ESTA cost?
The price of the USA ESTA on the official website is $21. This is the cheapest option, although the processing time can exceed 72 hours.
If you apply for an ESTA through iVISA, the cost depends on the urgency of your application. The Standard option costs $60.99 and takes 24 hours; the Fast option costs $122.99 and takes eight hours; and the Superfast option costs $150.99 and takes just two hours.
Other important information about the ESTA for the USA
If you meet all the requirements for ESTA authorization to the USA and you’re ready to apply, check this section first. There are some special cases in which your ESTA processing time could be longer.
ESTA for families
When applying for a family or group ESTA, each traveler must have a valid passport from a country that’s part of the Visa Waiver Program. Also, an ESTA application must be filled out for each traveler, including minors. If you use iVISA, you can do all the ESTA applications together, so it’s much faster.
In the case of minors, parents must request the ESTA and accept the conditions on their child’s behalf.
ESTA for people with traffic violations or criminal records
People with traffic violations or criminal records can apply for the ESTA, although approval will depend on the severity of the crime, the age of the traveler, and when the violation took place.
If you have traffic tickets or a criminal record, I recommend being upfront and honest about it on your application, otherwise, you could be denied simply for submitting incorrect information.
If your ESTA application is denied, you should check if you can obtain entry to the U.S. with a valid visa.
Also, I recommend getting a policy with one of the best travel insurance companies, especially if you’re not sure if you’ll be approved to enter the U.S. This way, you can recover the money you’ve invested in the trip, even if your plans have to be canceled.
FAQs – ESTA for the United States
Now that you know how to apply for the ESTA to the USA, here are the most commonly asked questions about the application and its processing.
Can you have a layover in the USA without an ESTA?
Yes, you can have a layover in the United States without an ESTA. In this case, you must present a transit visa, which you can get through the U.S. Embassy.
How much does an ESTA cost?
The ESTA for the USA costs $21 through the official website. If you apply through iVISA, the price starts at $60.99 for expedited service.
How long does it take to get the ESTA approved?
The processing time for an ESTA can take 72 hours or more, but you can speed up the process if you use iVISA. With iVISA, you can request an ESTA and receive it in 24 hours or less.
Can you request an ESTA for another person?
Yes, although you must specify in your application that you’re requesting the ESTA for someone else.
Do you have to have a plane ticket or hotel reservation to apply for an ESTA?
In most cases, you don’t need to have your ticket or accommodation booked before applying for an ESTA.
How will I receive my ESTA for the USA?
You will receive your ESTA by email.
What happens if the information on my ESTA is incorrect?
If there is incorrect information on your ESTA, you must submit a new application.
Can the ESTA application be canceled if I decide not to travel to the USA?
You can’t cancel your ESTA application once it has been submitted, nor can you receive a refund. In this case, your best bet is to have a policy with one of the best travel insurance companies, which will cover your trip costs if you cancel.
Do minors need an ESTA?
Yes, all travelers, including minors, need an ESTA. In this case, a parent or legal guardian must submit the application for them.
That’s everything you need to know about applying for an ESTA. I hope this guide helped you understand how to get an ESTA for the U.S., but if you have any questions, leave me a comment below. I’ll do my best to help you out.
Until then, have a wonderful trip to the States!