A guide to the ESTA for travellers going to the USA

Guest blogger Josh, from estaform.org, shares his knowledge about the ESTA, an electronic system used by non-nationals to gain a temporary entry permit into the United States of America.

The dogs days of lengthy visa applications to travel to the USA are over - for citizens of 38 countries at least - with the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). The United States Department for Homeland Security created the system to ensure temporary entry into the country could be achieved with ease, while making sure security could be improved. 

The ESTA was created for tourists and those taking business trips. Oh, and if you have a connecting flight that stops in the USA, you’re going to need to apply for an ESTA too.

Applying for the ESTA programme means completing an application form online, and should only take up to 72 hours to be granted. That's right, not only is the process affordable and quick, you don't even need to leave your house to apply - never mind travelling to and queueing at an incredibly boring embassy!  (You require an electronic passport to apply for the ESTA). After you've entered your details, the application requires an online payment of USD 14 before it can be submitted for processing.

Once you have the ESTA, the validity period is two years. Within those two years, you have unlimited access into the country, you can come and go as you please. In the case that your passport expires within those two years so will your permit. 

Frequently asked questions 

Will my child need an ESTA?
Good question, and yes they do. It used to be enough for children to enter the US with a child ID, however, this is no longer the case. Your child must have a children’s passport or a machine-readable passport, which was issued after 26th October 2006. If your child does not have this, you must apply for a VISA for them. 

I’m too busy to complete the online application, can someone else do it for me? 
Absolutely! Anybody can fill in the form for you and even pay for it, however, the information provided is solely your responsibility. 

Is it true I require an ESTA if I have a connecting flight through an airport in the USA?
This is absolutely true! In the USA, they do not have areas of transit, meaning anybody who lands in the country is counted as entering the USA. Therefore, you need to obtain an ESTA to pass through (even if you are 'in transit'). 

Who can apply for the ESTA programme? 
Eligibility is available to citizens in 38 countries, some of them include Australia, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Malta and The United Kingdom.

Helpful links

Find more information about the ESTA:

Apply for the ESTA:

Restrictions on the permit

  • You can stay up to 90 days in the USA with an ESTA
  • An ESTA does not permit you to work in the USA

Tips for travel preparation

  • Print a copy of your ESTA to keep with your documentation
  • Apply for the ESTA at least 72 hours before travelling
  • Ensure your passport contains an electronic chip

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