Do I need an ESTA for the USA? – All you need to know!

An ESTA is a travel authorisation required for travel to the USA for residents of those countries who do not need a visa. An ESTA form can be quickly filled out and submitted because it’s an online application. This application costs $21USD per person.

An ESTA is always needed for most leisure travels in the USA (assuming you don’t need a different visa). A traveler who doesn’t have a valid ESTA is not permitted when checking in to any ferry services, flights, or cruise ships to the USA. It is very important to get your ESTA visa granted before making travel arrangements to the US. Even if you are just transiting through the US, you will need an ETSA.

In this post, you’ll learn all you need to know in order to get an ESTA for your upcoming trip to the US.

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What is an ESTA?

ESTA is a short form for Electronic System for Travel Authorization which is an electronic travel authorisation for the United States of America. The ESTA is a required safety measure that was put into action by US Customs and Border Protection.

By doing this, every person coming into the country is digitally registered. Transportation companies such as airlines and shipping companies need to check that each passenger holds a valid ESTA.

These transport companies can do it by checking out the passenger’s passport number in the database approved by the US Customs and Border Protection.

Who needs an ESTA?

Anyone who originates from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries and plans to visit the United States of America needs to apply for an ESTA. The current list of countries can be found on the official ESTA site here. Every person, including infants, needs to get an ESTA if they have not received a visa to the USA.

Having an ESTA is not the same thing as a visa. Both ESTA and Visa have different requirements for their documentation. It is therefore important to correctly define your travel purpose before tendering your application either for a visa or an ESTA.

How to apply for an ESTA online?

Before booking your accommodation or flight, the first thing you should consider is to apply for your travel permit. In case there is an issue, you don’t have to suffer the loss of flight fare or accommodation payments that have been made.

The steps to apply are very simple and easy because the whole application process is done online. An ESTA application only takes about 5 minutes. To start the application, simply visit the official website of the USA Department of Homeland Security.

The instructions are available to read in a number of languages but all answers/responses must be given in English. When filling in this form, pay full attention to fill up every necessary field of the question asked. All information required should be provided such as contact number, passport number, address, etc.

An ESTA lasts for 2 years. Once it expires, there is a need for a new application to obtain another one.

How much does an ESTA cost?

The ESTA fees include the application fees and consular fees. The total cost that is charged for an ESTA is $21USD per person. This amount includes application fees, consular fees, the exchange rate tax, and service prices. Whichever payment method you choose, there are no additional charges.

It is very much possible to have an ‘urgent ESTA application’. This is also done through the same ESTA form. All you have to do when applying is to click on the box that says ‘urgent delivery’. An ‘urgent application’ costs 20 € per person, which is then added to the price of the ESTA.

If you have urgent travel, you should consider applying for an ‘urgent application’ so that the travel authorisation can be granted on time.

Another reason why an ESTA payment is easy is that it involves an online payment. Payments are made through Visa/MasterCard, PayPal, or American Express.

When do I get my ESTA?

An ESTA application is one of those applications that take only a few minutes to get a result. An ESTA is applied online and as a result of that, it is processed promptly and the majority of those applications are approved in just minutes after submission. There are cases whereby an application has been delayed up to 72 hours.

When you get an ESTA application approval, you will be notified through your email or browser. The approved application will contain the authorisation number, the expiry date and other information related to the applicant that has been provided at the time of the registration.

A recent study was carried out on the waiting time of an ESTA application processing time by and it was recorded that 89.9 % of the applicants were granted in a minute or two. 10.1 % were pending applications of applicants that needed an additional 1 to 72 hours for proper processing.

It was also recorded that the likelihood of an ESTA application denial or a ‘travel not authorised” was roughly around 2.5 % which means that an ESTA application is not that hard to get. Applicants who get denied an ESTA may still be entitled to apply for a USA visa.

Do I need an ESTA

Some important rules of an ESTA application:

  • Travellers have to prove on arrival in the US that they will be leaving America in the future by providing a return ticket or transit ticket.
  • Travellers suspected of being a possible threat to the public or security order of America can be denied entry by Homeland Security at all times, even if they possess a valid US visa or ESTA.

It is of uttermost importance to get an ESTA when making travel plans to America. The application for an ESTA is done online, and usually granted within a minute or two after submission.

Amongst other reasons why approval might be delayed, is that your application could also experience technical difficulties thereby causing a delay in the approval. Note that its period of validity is 2 years and after 2 years, a new ESTA has to be submitted from the official webpage of ESTA.

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