ESTA is available for those who are citizens of countries participating in the VWP, or United States Visa Waiver Program. If you are a citizen or hold dual nationality in any one of these countries, then you will be able to apply for ESTA.
There are a number of requirements for the ESTA application. These are based on a number of factors, such as your nationality, health status, and criminal record. These factors should be taken into consideration when applying for your ESTA, as if you are not approved you will need to apply for a standard Visa when entering the country.
Which are the visa waiver countries that can apply for ESTA?
What do I need to apply for ESTA?
You will need to ensure that you have a valid passport with digital chip and photograph page that can be read by the machines upon going through passport control. In addition to this, you must also provide proof of your return ticket for when you have completed your journey. You will also need to be visiting the U.S for a maximum of 90 days on your journey, and it is advisable that you don’t make return journeys too close together, as the border agent has the final say on whether you will be allowed into the country, and may be suspicious that you are travelling for reasons other than business or tourism. The ESTA form is only completed when travelling by sea and by air, as passenger lists and information are processed ahead of time. When travelling by land, a different form needs to be filled out - the I-94.
Can my children travel using ESTA?
Your children can also travel under the ESTA scheme, and you will be able to fill out their application for them. If you have more than one child travelling, they will each need their own ESTA application filed separately. You must enter the questions truthfully as if they were filling their own application, as you are responsible for them as their guardian. Children cannot travel on their parent’s passport, and they will require their own passport to travel.
How do you book for groups with ESTA?
Group applications for ESTA can be filled out, and only require one payment and application. You will need to have a group contact person, who is also the applicant. They will need to input information such as their name, date of birth, and email address. The group contact person can then add other new applicants to the group. The minimum number of people for a group application is two. Payment for the group can be made in one payment, and you do not have to pay for the applications individually.
Sometimes one of the group member’s applications may show as “pending”. This will not affect the processing of the other applications in the group.
Terrorist Travel Prevention Act
In 2015 the United States implemented the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act (otherwise known as the Act). This act affects nationals who have travelled to or been in Libya, Somalia, or Yemen on or after March 2011. This act will also affect you if you hold a dual nationality with these countries, or with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria. If these criteria apply to you, then you will not be able to travel into the U.S using ESTA.
You can read more about this here. If you are unsure if your application will be affected by this act, it is advisable to contact your embassy so that they can advise you further.
Do I need specific travel plans?
No! You don’t need a specific travel itinerary to apply, but you will need a point of contact in the U.S, and the address where you will be staying. If you will be travelling through the U.S, then you need to list the first address where you are planning on staying. If you’re not sure of the exact address, you can also enter the name of the hotel or location you’ll be visiting.
What else might cause my application to be denied?
To ensure that your application is processed correctly, it’s very important to ensure that all of the mandatory fields in your ESTA application have been filled out. If you do not fill in a mandatory field, then this may lead to your application being denied. If you just made a mistake in your mandatory field, this does not mean it will necessarily be denied. It will need to be checked and your application may take more time, however. If you need to make an adjustment to the information in your application after it’s been processed, then you’ll need to make a new application.
If you have previously visited the US under the ESTA scheme and you were deported or denied entry, or overstayed your visit, you are not eligible for entry into the United States through the Visa Waiver Program.
Eligibility and Denial
There are some criteria related to your application which may prevent you from being eligible for the ESTA program. These are related to the questions which you will answer on the form, related to your criminal record, your current health status, and your intentions upon entering the country. These questions are to establish that you do not pose a threat to other people, yourself, or to any property in the country.
With regards to your criminal record, minor traffic offenses after which a conviction was not made will not make you ineligible for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. It is advised that if you are unsure if your history would make you ineligible that you apply through normal Visa channels. For offenses in the U.S, even minor ones, there may be a warrant out for your arrest if you left the country without appearing in court. For those with a criminal conviction or arrest, your success when applying for ESTA may be in question. For those with drug related offenses, your application will be denied, as due to United States law people who have been determined to be drug abusers or drug addicts will not be given entry to the country.
When answering the questions about your health, you must confirm that you are not carrying what the United States defines as a “communicable disease of public health significance”. These are Cholera, Diptheria, Infectious tuberculosis, plague, smallpox, yellow fever, Viral Hemorrhagic fevers (including Ebola, Lassa, Margurg, and Crimean-Congo), or any severe acute respiratory illnesses which are easily transmissible to other people, and may be fatal. If you are found to have any of these diseases, your ESTA application will be denied.
Your application can also be denied if, due to a medical diagnosis of a physical or mental disorder, you are found to be a threat to yourself or to others. If you have a mental or physical disorder which can often have these behaviours, but you have never had and will not have these behaviours, then you can apply for ESTA and answer that you do not have any disorder which may cause harm to others or yourself. You may have to see a specific doctor according to U.S. entry requirements.
My ESTA application was denied. What now?
If your ESTA application is denied, there are different options for what can be done. Resubmitting an application when none of your circumstances have changed will lead to your application being denied.
If a reapplication is submitted but with false information, to try and gain acceptance into the program, the applicant will be made permanently ineligible when applying under the Visa Waiver Program.
If you have had your ESTA application denied, you should instead apply for a normal visa into the US.
You should visit the Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs website, where you can find further information on applying for and acquiring a visa, or contact your embassy for further information.
Do you have any further questions? Check our FAQ page.