The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, ESTA is an online system that is employed to determine the eligibility of visitors who are traveling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA does not conclude whether a traveler is allowable to the United States, the final decision whether an individual can enter the United States rests with the customs and border protection officials at the point of entry. ESTA is a compulsory requirement for individuals of countries that have accepted the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP allows people from participating countries to visit the United States for a maximum of ninety days without a visa.

Travel is not authorized, when a traveler receives this message, they are advised to apply for a visa or reapply after one day. But, unless there is a change in circumstances, your authorization will still not be accepted. Those who apply with false information may be permanently barred from traveling to the U.S. Definition for application denial are not explained by the U.S embassy or DHS but some common reasons for denial are; overstaying on the previous visit, engaging in unauthorized work, previous denial of visa or entry. Denial may also arise if you are using a passport that you may have reported having been stolen or if one of your answers to the VWP queries was a 'yes'.

As from January 12, 2009, all travelers benefiting from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization before visiting the United States either by air or sea.

The Visa Waiver Program applies to passengers traveling with an electronic passport issued by the following countries:
Andorra
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brunei
Chile
Czech Republic
Denmark
Estonia
Finland
France
Germany
Germany
Greece
Hungary
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Latvia
Liechtenstein
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Monaco
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
Republic of Malta
San Marino
Singapore
Slovakia
Slovenia
South Korea
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
Taiwan
United Kingdom
Passports issued by these countries must be e-passports and can be read by a scanning device. Depending on the place and date of issue, the e-passport must also include a digitized photo ID and an electronic chip. If in possession of a temporary or emergency passport that is not electronic, you cannot travel under the Visa Waiver Program. You must then apply for a visa before travelling to the United States.

ESTA is not a visa.
ESTA is merely an authorization prior to travel

Consequently, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that travelers receive their ESTA at least 72 hours before departure.

Prospective travelers to the USA under the VWP must meet the following requirements:
  • Be citizen of a country benefiting from the VWP
  • Short stay for tourism or business
  • Hold a valid passport
  • Use an airline or ship company approved by the US government and hold full return fare or showing the final destination if transiting through the USA
  • Assuring exit from the USA within 90 days after entry
  • Obtain the ESTA permission

With an electronic travel authorization, you may travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, but this does not constitute a guarantee of entry into the United States. Upon your arrival in the United States, you will be monitored at the border by an immigration officer, who may refuse your entry under the Visa Waiver Program or under a section of U.S. law. The refusal to grant you an electronic travel authorization does not prevent you from seeking a visa to enter the United States.

ESTA authorizations are valid for 2 years or until the expiry of the passport if it does so before the 2 year validity period.

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.
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