The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system facilitates overseas travel. It is specifically aimed at people travelling for business purposes to the US as part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

ESTA authorization isn’t responsible for assessing a visitor’s credentials for entering the US. As travellers arrive in the country, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers conduct inspections and confirm whether entrance is permitted.

What is the VWP?

The VWP requires an ESTA. The program allows eligible people of permitted countries to travel to the US for tourism or business purposes. These stays are limited to a maximum of 90 days unless a visa has been obtained.

Over 35 countries are able to travel to the US as part of the VWP. The list of countries mainly includes European nations like the United Kingdom, Germany, Spain, France, Italy, and Portugal. Other non-European nations that are part of list include Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Brunei, and Singapore.

Why is ESTA Required?

This automated system helps determine eligibility to travel to the United States. This measure was brought in to improve security as part of a 2007 act. ESTA can help identify eligibility ahead of travel and possible risk.

The ESTA is designed to add a further layer of security in lieu of visa requirements. In turn, this allows frontline workers to focus on other potential risks.

Is the ESTA the Same as a Visa?

In, no. The ESTA is not a replacement for a visa and cannot be used instead of a visa whenever a visa may be required under US law. If you have a valid visa, you are able to travel to the United States without the need for an ESTA.

The Australian government also has a similar system to the ESTA. The Australian version is known as the Electronic Travel Authority and works in much the same way.

How to Apply for an ESTA

If you are an eligible national of the VWP, currently do not have a visa, and want to travel to the US, you may want to apply for an ESTA.

In order to apply you will need:

  • A valid passport issued by a VWP country
  • A valid email address
  • Home address and phone number
  • Point of contact
  • $14 payment via a valid payment method

In addition to this you may require some of the following information (if applicable) to complete your ESTA application:

  • Aliases or other names
  • National ID number
  • Global Entry ID number
  • Employment address
  • US point of contact

You can apply for an ESTA at:

The Bottom Line

If you’re looking to travel to the US and do not have a visa you may need to get yourself an ESTA. You do not need an ESTA if you already possess a valid visa and may not be able to apply for one if you do not live in an eligible country or meet all of the criteria. Check in advance if you need and are eligible for an ESTA.

Partner content