Date Issued: Thursday, 21 January 2016
Updated 20 May 2016
Disclaimer: This FAQ does not constitute visa advice. Visa advice can be obtained from the US Department of Homeland Security or visa advisory service providers.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) was implemented by the United States Department of Homeland Security and became mandatory on 12 January, 2009. The purpose of ESTA is to pre-screen customers that intend to visit the United States on the visa waiver program.
All travelers to the United States from visa waiver countries (including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan among others) must obtain approval. Libya, Somalia, and Yemen have been added as countries of concern since 18 February 2016, but at this time this only applies to individuals who have visited one of these countries since 01 March 2011. People who have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since 01 March 2011 will be required to apply for a visitor visa. This policy will continue to be reviewed and may be updated again at any time.
Click here to find out if your passport allows you to travel under the visa waiver program.
Anyone traveling to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program must have an electronic passport (e-passport) or you won't be granted entry into the USA. An e-passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. For more information, you can download the Visa Waiver Program Passport Compliance Update here.
It is important to understand that an approval given under the ESTA does not guarantee entry, but it allows you to travel to the United States and ask for admittance to enter. ESTA is an online fully automated system that verifies your name and personal details against a number of law enforcement databases.
How to apply for a Travel Authorization:
- Logon to: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
- Complete the on-line application (this will take about 15 – 30 minutes)
- Ensure the application is submitted at least 72 hours prior to travel
What information is required to obtain a Travel Authorization?
- Name, nationality and date of birth
- Passport details
- Convictions, arrests or any communicable diseases
- Previous visa denial or denial of entry or volunteer withdrawal of request to enter
The US Department of Homeland Security introduced additional questions to the ESTA application in November 2014 and again in September 2015. These apply to new applications and include:
- Other names or aliases
- Parents’ names
- Address and employment information
- Emergency contact (here or USA)
- US contact details
- Other citizenship(s) held*
* Please note: Legislation passed in the US House of Representatives in December 2015 places restrictions on travelers with certain dual citizenship. If you are a citizen of a visa waiver country and also a citizen of Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan you may not be able to visit the US under the visa waiver program. You may have to apply for a visitor visa. This applies even if you are traveling solely on your visa waiver eligible passport.
People of any nationality who have visited Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan since 01 March 2011, in any capacity other than as serving military personnel, may also be required to obtain a visa. Please contact your nearest US consulate.
Who needs to apply?
- Visitors that intend to travel to the USA by air or sea carrier
- All visitors must have their own ESTA including children and infants
- All visitors must also have their own passport
How much does it cost?
The ESTA costs USD$14.00 per person and the fee must be paid by credit card at time of applying. The fee is still charged if the application is declined.
When should I apply for the Travel Document?
You should apply more than 72 hours before you travel. However, you do not need to have a flight already booked. If you know you will be traveling to the United States within the next 3 -12 months, it is recommended to apply early in case you get denied and need to apply for a visitor visa. Applying for a visitor visa to the US can take weeks or even months.
What if my itinerary details change? Can I update the Travel Authorization?
Yes. You can easily update the itinerary details. Once you have applied for and obtained your first Travel Authorization, you will be given instructions for how to update it.
Does the ESTA document expire?
An approved ESTA Travel Authorization is valid for two years but must be renewed / re-done before expiration if:
- The traveler’s passport changes / expires
- The traveler’s name or gender changes
- The traveler’s citizenship changes
Can my travel consultant help me?
Due to privacy legislation, your travel consultant is unable to assist you with your Travel Authorization. Each adult traveling should complete their own authorization and the appropriate parent / guardian should complete it for each child and infant.
Providing false information when applying for a Travel Authorization can make you permanently ineligible to visit the United States. It is extremely important that you carefully read the questions and understand the information you are expected to provide.
If you have ever been denied a visa to the USA, you cannot visit the US under the visa waiver program. You must apply for a visitor visa
For detailed information and FAQ – Please refer to: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov