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To strengthen the security of travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, requirements to travel visa-free have been enhanced. Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries will still be eligible to travel without a visa but will have to obtain an approved travel authorization prior to their travel to the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security and the United States Customs and Border Protection have provided a secure public Web site with an automated form for you, or a third party, to complete in order to apply for a travel authorization. Once you enter the required biographic, travel, and payment information on the secure Web site, your application is processed by the system to determine if you are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa. The system will provide you with an automated response, and prior to boarding, a carrier will electronically verify with the United States Customs and Border Protection that you have an approved travel authorization on file.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk.
ESTA approval authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the United States under the VWP. Private carriers must be a signatory visa waiver program carrier. See list of Signatory Carriers. While CBP recommends that you apply at least 72 hours before travel, you may apply any time prior to boarding. In most cases, a response is received within seconds of submitting an application.
ESTA is not a visa. It does not meet the legal requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa when a visa is required. Travelers that possess a valid U.S. visa may travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose it was issued. Travelers traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an ESTA. In the same way that a valid visa does not guarantee admission to the United States, an approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admission to the United States.
ESTA became mandatory January 12, 2009. VWP applicants are required to complete a blue Customs declaration upon arrival in the U.S. whether or not they have an ESTA authorization. VWP travelers are no longer required to complete the green I-94W card.
Approved ESTA applications are valid for a period of two years, or until the passport expires, whichever comes first, and multiple trips to the United States without the traveler having to re-apply for another ESTA. When traveling to the U.S. with the approved ESTA, you may only stay for up to 90 days at a time - and there should be a reasonable amount of time between visits so that the CBP Officer does not think you are trying to live here. There is no set requirement for how long you must wait between visits.
Travelers whose ESTA applications are approved, but whose passports will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA valid until the passport's expiration date.
A new ESTA authorization is required if:
DHS recommends that you apply for ESTA authorization as soon as you know you will be traveling to the United States under the VWP. If your ESTA expires while in the U.S., it will not affect your departure.
Beginning September 8, 2010, there is a fee required by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009 (Section 9 of the United States Capitol Police Administrative Technical Corrections Act of 2009, Pub. L. No. 111-145). The fee is comprised of two parts:
CBP is not responsible for any third party fees for the transaction.
Note: It is important to PRINT a copy of the document for your records. The printout is not required upon arrival into the United States, as the officers have the information electronically.
An approved travel authorization is not a visa. It does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a United States visa when a visa is required under United States law. Individuals who possess a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose for which it was issued. Individuals traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for a travel authorization.
The "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007" (9/11 Act) amended Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), requiring that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) implement an electronic travel authorization system and other measures to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA adds another layer of security that allows DHS to determine, in advance of travel, whether an individual is eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program and whether such travel poses a law enforcement or security risk.
The estimated average time to complete this application is 20 minutes.
Yes. This Web site is operated by the United States Government and employs technology to prevent unauthorized access to the information you enter and view. Additionally, this Web site operates under the rules and regulations as specified by the United States Privacy Act and this Privacy Statement to insure the privacy of your information.
ESTA application data remains active for the period of time that the approved ESTA is valid, which is generally two years, or until the traveler's passport expires, whichever comes first. DHS will then maintain this information for an additional year after which it will be archived for twelve years to allow retrieval of the information for law enforcement, national security, or investigatory purposes. Once the information is archived, the number of officials with access to it will be further limited. This retention is consistent both with CBP's border search authority and with the border security mission mandated for CBP by Congress. Data linked to active law enforcement lookout records, CBP matches to enforcement activities, and/or investigations or cases, including applications for ESTA that are denied, will remain accessible for the life of the law enforcement activities to which they are related.
As DHS transitions to a paperless I-94W, the ESTA application data will replace the data that is collected through the paper I-94W. In those instances where ESTA application data is used in lieu of the information collected through the paper I-94W, the ESTA application data will be maintained in accordance with the retention schedule for the I-94W, 75 years.