ESTA for South Korean Citizens -

ESTA for South Korean Citizens

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In 2008 South Korea became a member of the Visa Waiver Program, which entitles citizens of the country to apply for an ESTA rather than a US visa for a visit to the United States. This provides them with several benefits when travelling to the US for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes.

ESTA Requirements and Important Information

  • Children of all ages require their own ESTA
  • Valid for up to 2 years, or until the passport expires
  • Can be used for multiple trips to the United States
  • Has a maximum stay limit of 90 days in the US
  • Travel authorisation must be obtained for non-US citizens entering the US
  • Applicable for visits for tourism, business, medical and transit
Application for South Korean Citizens

Passport Requirements

Any traveller using the VWP must have a machine-readable passport, regardless of age or passport type. Other passport criteria also apply, depending on when VWP tourists' passports were issued:

  • Machine-readable passports must have an integrated chip that contains information from the data page and were issued, reissued, or extended on or after October 26, 2006. (e-passport).
  • Digital photos must be printed on the data page of machine-readable passports that were issued or renewed between October 26, 2005, and October 25, 2006.
  • There are no additional requirements for machine-readable passports that were issued or extended before October 26, 2005.
  • Visitors must have passports that are valid for at least six months beyond the length of their planned stay in the United States in order to enter the country.

Benefits of Applying for ESTA for South Korean Citizens

Citizens of South Korea are able to take advantage of the many benefits of applying for an ESTA to visit the US. The ESTA application process is much quicker and easier to complete than applying for US Visa. Typically, the ESTA will be processed within around 24 hours, whilst applying for US Visa can take weeks, possibly months.

Applying for an ESTA is all done online and there is no requirement to attend an interview at the US embassy, which is a requirement when applying for US Visa. The application form takes around 20 minutes to complete and submit, with the applicant then receiving an email to notify them of the decision whether it is approved or not. An additional benefit of applying for an ESTA is that the application fee is considerably cheaper than applying for a US Visa.

How South Korean Citizens Can Apply for ESTA

Provided that citizens of South Korea have a biometric passport, they are able to apply for an ESTA. There are several sections of questions that they must complete which include details such as name, address, date of birth and their parents’ details. There are also some security related questions including criminal convictions and any countries they visited that are deemed to have high risk links with terrorism.

The applicant simply needs to fill in the form, then pay the application fee before submitting the application. They will be screened by the Department of Homeland Security to determine whether that ESTA is approved. If approved, the ESTA links electronically to the passport. It is really important that no mistakes are made on the application, as this can result in it being declined and delaying the obtaining of travel authorisation that is necessary for visits to the US.

What to do if ESTA is Declined

If the ESTA gets declined, then the applicant can either resubmit another application with the correct details or they can alternatively apply for a US Visa. To apply for US Visa, they will need to complete a DS 160 form and arrange and attend an interview at the US embassy.

US Embassy Address South Korea

U.S. Embassy Seoul
188 Sejong-daero, Jongno-gu,
Seoul, Korea

ESTA Application: Things You need to know

  • Applications need to be submitted at least 72 hours before travel to the United States.
  • ESTA applicants who are rejected still can apply for a B1 business visa and a B2 tourist visa.
  • An authorised ESTA is not a guarantee of entry into the United States and may be canceled at any moment.

How Long Is an ESTA Valid for & Under What Circumstances Will I Need a New ESTA?

The ESTA is valid for two years, during which time the user is permitted an unlimited number of entries into the United States, with a 90-day maximum stay per visit.

If a person changes their name, gets a new passport (including an emergency or temporary one), their gender, their country of citizenship, or their answers to any "yes" or "no" questions on the ESTA application, they must get a new ESTA.

The Restriction on VWP Travel

To determine if an ESTA candidate has been present in North Korea on or after March 1, 2011, or has a dual national of North Korea, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security revised the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) online form on August 5, 2019. With a few exceptions, anybody who was in North Korea on March 1, 2011, or later, is not eligible to come to the US under the VWP. Dual citizens of a VWP nation and North Korea will also be subject to travel restrictions.

Ineligibility: Some South Koren Travelers May Not Be Eligible to Enter the U.S. Under the VWP

Some visitors may not be eligible for visa-free entrance to the US under the VWP. These are people who have been arrested, people with a criminal record, people with certain dangerous infectious diseases, people who have been denied admission to the US, people who have been deported from the US, and those who have previously overstayed their visa waiver program.

The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 prohibit anyone from using the VWP if they visited or were physically present in Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011. (with some exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in support of a VWP country).

When Is a Visa Needed When Traveling to the USA?

In the following circumstances, South Korean citizens should apply for a visa rather than an Esta:

  • If their ESTA request is rejected;
  • In the past, they have overstayed their visa or ESTA;
  • They lack a valid electronic passport;
  • They intend to stay for more than 90 days;
  • They plan a visit to the US for work or school.

Benefits of ESTA for South Korean Citizens:

  • Fast processing time
  • Completed online, with no interview required
  • Form is short and quick to complete
  • Can be used for visits of a maximum of 90 days
  • Cheaper application fee than visa
  • Valid ESTA can be used multiple times

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


Yes, South Korean citizens can travel to the USA.
An ESTA is required for Korean nationals if their trip to the US does not exceed 90 days.
If Korean citizen plans to stay in America for more than 90 days, they need an appropriate visa.
No, ESTA and visa are not the same. Travelers to the United States who want to remain for fewer than 90 days on vacation or on a temporary business trip must get an Electric System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). A visa, on the other hand, is a "license" that permits long-term habitation in the United States for business, educational, or employment reasons.
Yes, while valid, the ESTA can be used for an unlimited number of entries into the US.
Depending on which comes first, an approved ESTA is valid for two years or until the user's passport expires.
No, people who already have an ESTA visa do not need it.