Complete Guide on Applying for ESTA to Travel to the USA with No Visa

Are you planning to apply for your ESTA for your visit to the USA?

The United States of America is one of the most visited countries in the world. However, to visit the US from most countries would require you to apply for a US tourist visa. On the other hand, a few selected countries can easily visit the USA without going through the tedious process of securing a visa but instead would require a travel authorisation called ESTA.

So before you pick your USA travel guide and plan your trip to the US, let me share with you on how you can secure a travel authorisation based on my personal experience.

I personally applied for an ESTA for my trip to the Dominican Republic. My flight back to the UK will be stopping over in Atlanta airport so I had to apply for ESTA even though I’m only a transit passenger. 

What is the ESTA

The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) is an automated system of the US Immigration to easily regulate the eligibility of the travellers who wish to travel to the USA using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

ESTA with British Passport

ESTA is not a visa. The travel authorisation was implemented on January 2009.  Both the US visa and ESTA won’t still guarantee entry to the USA. 

Who needs an ESTA

If you are a citizen of any of the approved countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) of the USA, then you can apply for an ESTA.

Visa Waiver Countries
  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • 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

If you are a citizen of the VWP countries mentioned above, you would not require to have an ESTA if you are arriving in the USA by land. If you are arriving by air and sea, you are required to secure an ESTA before travelling to the US.

What do I need for my ESTA application

Securing an ESTA is very easy.  Just make sure that you have the following requirements ready:

  • A Valid passport from VWP countries (listed above).
  • Valid bank card or PayPal account.
  • Your personal and contact information.
  • Your most recent employment information, if needed.

How long does an ESTA last? What is the duration of ESTA waiver

The ESTA is valid for two (2) years from the day of the issuance or until the passport expires, whichever comes first.

In such circumstances you will have to re-apply for a new ESTA:

  • If you change or renew your passport.
  • Change your name.
  • Change your gender.
  • Change the country of your citizenship.
  • Change of legal circumstances e.g. conviction of a crime etc.

Best place to get an ESTA?

You need to get your ESTA online. You can easily apply for your travel authorisation and get an ESTA Application form.

How long does it take to get an ESTA

Applying and securing an ESTA is way easier than getting an actual USA visa. Since you can apply for ESTA online, the whole process will only take a few minutes to answers all the ESTA waiver questions like your personal information and circumstances.

Once you submitted your application, in most cases you will hear back from your ESTA application within 72 hours.

How much is an ESTA?

Based on my personal experience,  the cost of getting an ESTA is only a minimal amount. There is a minimal charge of processing fee worth around $4 and an authorisation fee of $10. 

The Authorisation fee will only be charged and deducted once your ESTA application is approved.  In such occasion that your ESTA application is denied, you will only need to pay the processing fee.

All payments are done via Paypal.

Do I need to print my ESTA?

Since I started working in the travel industry a decade ago, I always advise my guests/clients/ passengers to ALWAYS have a printed copy or photocopy of the valuable documents such as Bio page of passport and visas.

Same things go with your ESTA, it is important to have the ESTA printed for your records, however, the printout is not required when you arrive in the USA immigration as they already have the electronic information of your ESTA.

When to renew and extension of ESTA

When you ESTA expires you must apply for a new ESTA prior to your travel to the USA. You cannot extend the validity of your ESTA.

You can apply for a new ESTA any time before your current travel authorisation expires. In such cases when your ESTA expires during or while you are in the USA, you do not need to re-apply for a new ESTA as it won’t affect your departure. ESTA only needs to be valid during your arrival to the USA.

What to do when my ESTA application is denied?

In the unfortunate event that your ESTA application is denied, you have to go to your nearest US Embassy or consulate and apply for a normal US Tourist visa.

You can only re-apply for your ESTA Application online IF YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES have changed since your first application refusal.  Otherwise, the new ESTA application will still be refused and you will have to go and apply for a US Tourist visa thru the nearest US embassy or consulate.

NEVER lie on your ESTA application or any visa application. Re-applying with false information can cause a permanent banned on using the VWP privilege.

I hope that this comprehensive guide on applying for ESTA helpful.

Once your ESTA is sorted, enjoy your USA holiday!

Have you applied for an ESTA before?
Share us your personal experience in the comment box below.

Comprehensive Guide on Applying for Esta


Ryazan Tristram EverythingZany Author Bio

Ryazan Tristram

Travel Writer & Photographer

Ryazan has a Bachelor’s Degree in Tourism and Hotel Management. She also has more than 10 years of work experience gained from working in the hotel and travel sectors in Asia and Europe. Her work has been featured and published on Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Discovery Channel, World Travel Guide, MSN, CNBC, GMA, Daily Mail UK, Lonely Planet and many more. She is currently living in the UK as a dual citizen (British – Filipina). Join her in travelling around the UK and beyond with a mission to promote sustainable tourism and share travel guides, travel tips, foodies, history and culture.

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