ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorisation

Visitors to the USA who are traveling under the Visa Waiver Program will be required to complete an online registration called ESTA before they travel. This is mandatory for all qualified Visa Waiver travelers.

ESTA only authorises a traveler to board an air or sea carrier for travel to the United States. It also does not guarantee entry into the United States; that decision rests with the immigration official at the Port of Entry in the same way that travelers currently entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program or with a visa are subject to inspection.

Key Points:

  • All passengers must complete the forms.
  • If you require a new Passports you must receive the new Passports BEFORE applying for ESTA.
  • Infants must also have the ESTA Forms completed.
  • ESTA applications currently cost $21 ($17 per person plus $4 to process the application)
    (beware of sites that want to charge you more for this service)
  • You must be eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program
  • Make your ESTA application HERE

When to apply?

The online version is available for use now and should be completed at least 72 hours before departure – applications can be made after that but they run the risk that approval may not be received ahead of travel.

What happens to ESTA applications?

Once the online application has been completed and, assuming it is satisfactory, the system will normally respond with an approval very quickly. Travelers should make a note of the ESTA approval number in case they need to access their application later – such as to register a change of name or marital status. Some applications may take up to 72 hours to approve whilst data is checked. Currently there is a charge per person for an ESTA application and no more information is sought than has been required under the I-94W system.

Who can complete ESTA?

Each family member traveling is required to complete an ESTA application and third party entry of data into ESTA is permitted – whether a relative or not. However the third party must be completely certain as to the accuracy of such entries. Any inaccuracies will be taken up with the applicant – NOT the third party and the applicant remain totally responsible for their own records.


Travelers who have been to the USA before, will know that additional information, called APIS, is already required relating to the traveler’s journey. As ESTA & APIS data cover two different requirements, both systems have to run independently. At some point the two may be merged so that duplicate information does not have to be provided but currently there is no planned date for such a change.

Repeat Visit’s?

Updating ESTA data for repeat visits within the 2 year ESTA duration is recommended but is not mandatory. I.e. Upon entry into the USA, the Customs and Border Protection Officer will also have the traveler’s APIS data on screen at the same time as the ESTA data and this may lead to a query why the two sets of data do not match. Updating ESTA with new arrival and 1st night’s stay data will save time at the point of entry as it will mean fewer questions.

Don’t know the US destination address or flight details yet?

ESTA applications can still be made without a full address and flights. In the short term flight details are not required and a generic address only will suffice. E.g. City and State. Applicants should register full address & flight details once known.

Mandatory Information needed to complete the application

Applicant Information

    • Applicant Name
    • Birth Date
    • City of Birth
    • Country of Birth
    • Gender
    • Parents [Enter the names of your parents. These are required to complete the application. If you do not know the name of one or both of your parents, enter UNKNOWN, for each parent. This field can include the names of your biological, adoptive, step-parent or guardian.]

Passport Information

    • Passport Number
    • Passport Issuing Country
    • Passport Issuance Date
    • Passport Expiry Date
    • Country of Citizenship [as it appears on your passport]

Contact Information

    • E-mail address
    • Telephone Number
    • Home Address

Emergency Contact Information In or Out of the United States

    • US Point of Contact [if you don’t have a contact in the US then enter where you are staying, or UNKNOWN]
    • Address [if you don’t have a contact in the US then enter the address of the hotel or villas where you are staying, or “Orlando, Florida”]
    • Telephone Number [if you don’t have a contact in the US then either enter the number of the hotel or villas where you are staying, or 0000000000]

Employment Information

    • Do you have a current or Previous Employer
    • Employer Name
    • Address
    • Telephone Number
    • Job Title

Do any of the following apply to you? (Answer Yes No)

1) Do you have a physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict; or do you currently have any of the following diseases:

Granuloma Inguinale
Leprosy, infectious
Lymphogranuloma venereum
Syphilis, infectious
Active Tuberculosis

2) Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?

3) Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?

4) Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?

5) Have you ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States? *

6) Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or were you previously employed in the United States without prior permission from the U.S. government?

7) Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?

If yes: when and where

8) Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the admission period granted to you by the U.S. government?