The ESTA form allows for an easy entry to America electronically via the Internet and without a visa

The US Electronic System for Travel Authorisation

The electronic system for travel authorisation, ESTA, allows for easy entry to the United States of America for holidays and meetings with a maximum stay of 90 days. Citizens from 38 countries, which are affiliated with the American ESTA system, can benefit from this service – the tedious visa application in the traditional manner via the embassy, is no longer required thanks to the ESTA application.

The ESTA form can be requested and submitted Via

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Below, you will find more detailed information to assist you in your journey and with your ESTA application.

Esta Infographic

What is ESTA?

The electronic system for travel authorisation is a method of entering the United States by boat or plane even without applying for a visa. ESTA was launched by the US government and is subject to the US Department of Homeland Security. The purpose of this system is, inter alia, simplifying short stays in the United States. However, ESTA mainly is a means of border protection since it determines whether applicants represent a potential security risk for the United States.

In order to make use of this offer, the purpose of the trip must be private or business in nature and the length of stay must not exceed 90 days. Furthermore, it is required that every traveller has a passport that is valid for the entire stay in the United States and is a citizen of one of the 38 countries that meet the conditions of visa-free travel (VWA).

Under these conditions it is now possible to submit an ESTA application for an entry permit. This is possible, through the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security. This website can be found here. The application should usually be made at least 72 hours prior to departure. However, registrations until shortly before departure are permitted. The application is associated with a fee. If you plan on travelling to the United States with more than one person, it is possible to submit an ESTA application for up to 50 people.

The program for visa exemption applies to the entire United States of America, including Puerto Rico, Guam and the US Virgin Islands. Within the valid residence time of 90 days, you can take trips to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean, and return to the United States by any means. However, you are required to prove that you have sufficient financial resources to pay for your entire stay and return home in each case of entry to the US. Otherwise, you may be denied entry.

Which countries participate in the ESTA programme?

Currently, 38 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • Germany
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Greece
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Japan
  • Monaco
  • New Zealand
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • Austria
  • Portugal
  • Malta
  • San Marino
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • South Korea
  • Taiwan
  • Czech Rep.
  • Hungary
  • United Kingdom

Applying for ESTA

Step to Step

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How long is my ESTA valid for?

The ESTA is valid for up to two years

Please note that a valid ESTA authorisation can be granted through the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security, inter alia. Furthermore, a valid ESTA application does not guarantee the right of entry into the US, as the US authorities can deny entry at the airport. It only allows for the start of the trip. Individuals who do not receive ESTA approval must apply for a visa as usual. Should you be able to obtain a permit, it will be valid for 2 years.

If the passport expires, the validity period ends as well. Using a valid application, you may theoretically enter the United States as often as you wish. However, this should not be done more than 2-3 times per year, otherwise you could be accused of illegal immigration.

Children and ESTA

To enter the USA with children without a visa, you need to consider a few things. Children’s IDs, machine-readable children’s passports, which were issued after 10/26/2006, or an entry in the passport of their parents are no longer accepted for visa-free travel.

To enter the United States without problems, children need either a machine-readable passport or a child’s passport, which was issued before 10/26/2006 and has not been extended since. Furthermore, the passport must contain a photo and must not have been altered in any other way. Otherwise, it is necessary to apply for a visa.

Entry regulations of the USA

Due to various rules, you should take plenty of time to plan for your trip to the USA to avoid unexpected incidents at entry. First, it is prohibited to take electronic equipment with a weak or dead battery on board for certain flights. Checking your cell phone charge is possible at any time. Violations of these regulations may result in refusal of entry to the aircraft.

During the flight, you will be given some documents to fill out, including the 6059B customs form. Persons wishing to enter the United States with a visa will also receive the I-94 form.

After your landing, you will pass through US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Immigration and Customs Enforcement checkpoints. Here, your documents are checked, of course. In addition, a CBP official will complete the US-VISIT process with you. To this end, your fingerprint is taken as well as a photo. Using this biometric data, your identity and unique identifiers are now checked. In addition, it is checked whether you are a known or suspected terrorist, criminal or illegal immigrant. The US officials are also entitled to receive details of your travel plan. Therefore, it is advisable to bring a copy of this information with you. You also need to have enough financial resources for your trip, including the return journey, to be allowed to enter the United States. After this procedure, you have to pass through customs.

A valid passport is required, as with most travels. Your passport must be valid for the entire duration of your stay at least, including the day of departure. For some countries, there are exceptions in this regard. For more information, you can visit the CBD site. A visa is only necessary if you do not have valid ESTA authorisation. Routine searches of your luggage are also possible even if you have not specified dutiable items. To make sure that no misunderstandings arise, you should check the complete list of dutiable items on cbp.gov. Should you intend to enter from Canada or Mexico by land, you should note that you might need to show your driving license, your vehicle documents and proof of liability insurance.

Frequently asked questions about the ESTA form

Why is a travel permit through ESTA necessary?

The Department of Homeland Security established ESTA on behalf of the US Government. In this way, the security of visa-free travel is to be increased.

What data is required to fill out the ESTA form?

Each application must include biographical data. This includes your name, surname, date of birth and information on your passport. In addition, there are questions regarding possible communicable diseases, arrests, convictions and previous entry applications. To pay the applicable fee, credit card information is also required. For group requests, each applicant is responsible for the accuracy of the information concerning him or her.

What is the National Identification Number and does this field need to be filled out?

The National Identification Number does not exist in Germany. Therefore, your selected answer would be “UNKNOWN” as a German citizen.

May a third party fill out an application for me?

Yes, this possibility exists. Friends, relatives, employees of a travel agency or any other person can fill in your application for you and pay the fee. However, the applicant is solely responsible for the accuracy of the information presented.

How far in advance of my trip do I need to apply for ESTA authorisation?

Applications can be made at any time prior to travel. However, it is recommended to do this as early as possible, as there may be occasional delays in the granting of authorisation. However, since not all trips are planned in advance and some trips may be booked due to an urgent emergency, it is also possible to submit applications shortly before your departure. The US agency recommends submitting the application at least 72 hours before departure.

How much time does the system require for the processing of my personal data?

In most cases, a decision will be made within a few minutes after the successful submission of the request. However, you will not be notified by e-mail, but the decision can be viewed exclusively on the web. In individual cases, the approval may take up to 72 hours.

What responses can I get to my request?

Authorisation Approved: If you receive this response, your application has been accepted and you can leave for your trip.

Travel Not Authorised: In this case, your ESTA application has been rejected. In order to travel to the US, a conventional B-Visa is required.

Authorisation Pending: This response means that your case has not yet been decided. You should revisit the site within the next 72 hours to check on your response.

What if a single request from a group request is “pending”? Does this mean that the decision regarding the remaining applications is delayed?

No. Should any of the applications from a group exhibit the status “Pending” the remaining applications are not affected.

Can I make several trips to/ from the US, even though I only have one permit?

Yes. An application is normally valid for two years. During this period, you may travel to the United States as often as you please. However, you should spend no more than 180 days in the US during a calendar year, as this may otherwise lead to interrogations by US officials at the airport, since they might suspect illegal immigration.

When must I submit a new ESTA application?

A new travel authorisation is required when:
  • The traveller receives a new passport.
  • The traveller changes his/ her name.
  • The traveller changes his/ her gender.
  • The nationality of the person travelling changes.
  • Circumstances, which lead to a change in the answers to one of the required “Yes” or “No” questions.

Must travellers with a stopover in the United States obtain an ESTA approval?

Yes. At American airports, there are not any transit areas, which is why everyone is counted as entering the US. Therefore, a valid ESTA approval is mandatory.

Should travellers flying non-stop to a country and crossing the American air space also fill out an ESTA application?

In this case, this is not required, because the plane does not land and will therefore not enter American soil.

Must travellers complete a new ESTA application in case of cancelled flights due to strike, adverse weather conditions or when rebooking their flight?

No. Once an ESTA application has been approved, it is usually valid for two years.

Must travellers without a visa carry a printout of their ESTA approval?

No, not necessarily. The US Department of Homeland Security passes on the status of an applicant to the respective authorities. However, carrying a printout is advised to avoid any misunderstandings.

I have forgotten my ESTA application number. How can I log back into the system to query my status or change my information? What happens if I lose my group identification number? Is my data secure?

In case of loss of this number, you can retrieve this number by entering your name, your date of birth, your passport number and your nationality on the website.

What happens if I lose my group identification number?

The system makes it possible to retrieve this number and will send the number to e-mail address specified during registration.

Is my data secure?

Yes. The website is operated by the US government and uses technology designed to prevent unauthorised entry. However, your data can be used in investigations in certain cases, for example.

Important Notice:

In January 2016, the US implemented changes to the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, stating that any persons who hold a dual nationality with Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria and a country listed in the Visa Waiver Program would be ineligible to travel to or be admitted the United States using VWP.

If you have travelled to or been present within Libya, Iraq, Iran, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after 1st March 2011, you would now be ineligible to travel or be admitted into the United States, via the VWP. (There are limited spaces available for those that traveled to the aforementioned countries with military or diplomatic purposes in the service of a VWP country.)

These persons can still apply for a traditional visa to enter the United States.