Prior to visa-free entry into the USA, every traveler must fill out an electronic ESTA application or be able to present a still valid ESTA. Below we explain what the requirements are for applying for ESTA and explain how to submit an ESTA application. Please also note the latest changes in the ESTA form, which result in stricter entry rules.
As announced, the US authorities have made changes in the ESTA application form on August 5, 2019.
As a result of the update to the ESTA website, additional groups of people are now excluded from visa-free travel to the US. The U.S. has tightened entry requirements for individuals who have traveled to North Korea.
In the ESTA form, applicants must now provide information about travel to North Korea since March 1, 2011. As a consequence, all those individuals who have been in North Korea within the last few years must apply for a U.S. visa in advance of their travel to the United States.
The disadvantage for affected individuals: Applying for a visa to the U.S. involves visa fees and the application process is more complex and lengthy than obtaining an ESTA travel authorization. In addition to extensive application documents, almost every visa applicant must attend an appointment in person at a U.S. consulate.
North Korea is, in addition to
the now 8th travel country, which is explicitly queried in the ESTA application and makes an ESTA eligibility obsolete.
Initially, the maintenance work was incidentally announced for 26.06.2019, but was postponed several times for unknown reasons.
The stricter entry requirements have an impact on the following groups of people in particular:
It is currently unconfirmed whether USA travelers who already have a valid ESTA travel authorization will be affected by the changes. However, as the changes are effective immediately, we recommend that any traveler to North Korea apply for an appropriate visa to the U.S.
Help with the ESTA application
We recommend the ESTA experts at The American Dream to help you apply for an ESTA travel authorization!
The ESTA application or ESTA authorization is an electronic travel authorization, as the English name Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA for short, reveals. An ESTA authorization is part of and a mandatory requirement of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
By the way, ESTA applications can be completed not only for individuals, but also for groups (e.g., travel groups or families).
Within the ESTA form, the following information is requested:
These questions in the ESTA application are mandatory. This means that it is mandatory to provide this information requested in the ESTA application.
Since the end of December 2016, it has been possible to provide information on the social media accounts used by (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) in the ESTA form, including the specification of the individual user name.
The information on social media profiles is optional (unlike the DS-160 and DS-260 form). According to the U.S. authorities, travelers who do not provide this information on the ESTA form will not be automatically denied, but rather the additional information is intended to help U.S. authorities identify potential terrorist threats. Furthermore, it should only be possible for U.S. authorities to see posts that are made public by the user; the privacy of applicants should not be violated at any time.
We answer the most frequently asked questions about the ESTA form and the input fields in our ESTA application completion instructions.
You don't want to miss any news about visa and entry to the USA? Subscribe to our various news offers here:
The ESTA application can be submitted at any time, even without specific travel dates. However, ESTA approval must be obtainedprior to travel by air or sea. In any case, it is recommended to apply in time, at least 72 hours before departure. The reason for this is that the approval phase takes at least 72 hours.
According to our experience, a decision on your ESTA application can still be made within 24 hours. However, since there is no guarantee for this, we recommend all travelers to obtain their ESTA for the U.S. as early as possible to avoid problems at entry.
The ESTA application can be submitted relatively quickly. Once you have all the important information about your planned trip to the USA together, you can fill out your ESTA application relatively quickly. The ESTA application should then take no longer than 30 minutes.
For the ESTA application, the U.S. authorities charge a fee of $14 per person since September 2010. The ESTA fee is made up as follows:
The ESTA fee can be paid on the official application site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security exclusively by credit card, debit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover (JCB, Diners Club)) or by online payment system PayPal.
In the event of an ESTA refusal, $4 will be withheld for processing done and only $10 will be refunded.
Those who use the services of the specialized ESTA provider www.esta-online.org pay an additional service fee. In return for this
ESTA Application Help
We highly recommend The American Dream's ESTA experts to help you apply for an ESTA travel authorization!
You can check your ESTA status or the processing status of an existing ESTA application on the official ESTA website.
As a rule, you should have the following information handy:
When you have completed the ESTA application or when you do the ESTA Status Check, one of the following three response options will appear:
|ESTA Status||Meaning / Consequences|
|Authorization Pending:||YourESTA application is being processed by the US authorities.|
|Authorization Approved:||Your ESTA application has been approved|
|Travel Not Authorized:||You are not allowed to travel visa-free with ESTA|
Normally, ESTA approval is pending for the time being. The U.S. authorities usually make a decision on your ESTA application within 72 hours.
Once your ESTA application is approved, you can check your information and update the following data:
All other details cannot be changed afterwards. If you go to the official ESTA website and click on "Check ESTA Status" to view your current ESTA approval and click on "Update", you will be taken to a clear page where you can check these two pieces of information and conveniently change them if needed.
It may happen that the system does not display all the data entered (such as applicant, passport, travel, contact information and employment history information) after clicking "View" when calling up the current ESTA application. The passport number can be found on the main page.
If you make a typo in the passport or biographical information and do not realize the error until the application has already been paid and approved, you will need to submit a new ESTA travel authorization. The previous ESTA application will be reset and can therefore be "overwritten".
Please note that you will also need to apply for a new ESTA authorization if you are issued a new passport or passport changes.
The corresponding US$14 processing fee will be charged each time you submit a new ESTA application.
Furthermore, the ESTA application consists of seven security questions, but applicants often misunderstand them and answer "yes" by mistake. Answering "yes" to any security question will automatically result in denial of the electronic travel authorization.
In order to speed up the processing on the part of the U.S. authority, "ESTA/Visa Waiver Program" should be selected in the subject line ("Topic") and then the item "I have been denied ESTA". In the "Message" box, the following items should be addressed:
Due to the high volume of applications, it may take a few days for U.S. Customs and Border Protection to respond. In the best case, the application will be reset so that it can be resubmitted.
If the U.S. agency does not respond or the application is not reset, it is important to note that denial of the electronic travel authorization automatically bars the individual from visa-free entry into the United States. In this case, it is mandatory for the person concerned to apply for a visa for the USA(B-1 for business travel or B-2 for vacation).
Within the framework of the ESTA application review, two reasons for rejection can be distinguished:
Since there is no guarantee that the ESTA application will be approved, we strongly recommend that you submit your electronic travel authorization as soon as your travel dates are set - at least 72 hours prior to travel.
If your ESTA application has been denied and cannot be reset, you will need to apply for an appropriate visa to the U.S. at an appropriate U.S. consulate.Please note that once an ESTA has been denied, you cannot simply submit a new ESTA application.
In the event of an ESTA rejection, travelers to the USA must apply for a so-called visitor visa (B visa): business travelers require a B-1 visa, tourists a B-2 visa. We recommend applying for the visa combination B-1/B-2, which covers both purposes of travel in the future.
You should allow approximately one to two weeks for the application of a B visa. Please note that the visa application process could be additionally delayed for persons affected by the ESTA tightening. This is due to so-called security checks.
Arrangement of a timely emergency appointment
If your trip to the USA is imminent, you should submit your visa application as soon as possible. If you need to travel urgently (business trip that cannot be postponed, medical reasons, etc.), you may be able to apply for a Emergency appointment apply for a visa. When applying for a visa, it is advisable to attach the ESTA revocation as "proof": When making an appointment via the web-based visa profile, you have the option to upload the ESTA revocation.
In addition, it is advisable to have the ESTA revocation with you on the day of the visa interview appointment. You can either print the email notification or access the ESTA application online and print the appropriate notice.
Since April 2018, it has been possible to upload the passport by means of a photo when applying for ESTA on the official website of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, so that the information of the machine-readable part of the passport can be directly transferred to the ESTA application.
On the PC (desktop or laptop), you can easily upload a photo in gif, png, jpg or jpeg format. Alternatively, using your cell phone, you can take a photo of the biographical page of the passport directly during the application process, upload it and let the system transfer the data without typing.
Due to the sensitivity of the system, we recommend that you enter the application information using a desktop or laptop.
In both cases, it is important that the machine-readable part of your passport, i.e. the two bottom lines, occupy the full width of the photo so that they can be read correctly.
The following data from your passport can be transferred:
Important: Uploading a passport photo is currently still optional. You can therefore continue to enter your data manually as usual.
If you decide to upload your passport data, please check it carefully before submitting the application. Depending on the quality of the photo, it is possible that data will be transferred incorrectly and your ESTA application will become invalid.
For various reasons, the official ESTA registration page may be temporarily unavailable. In most cases, the ESTA site is down due to maintenance.
The US authorities usually work on fixing technical errors during maintenance. Minor technical problems are usually fixed within a few days. Sometimes changes are also made to the ESTA form during maintenance.
If the ESTA page is not working, no ESTA applications can be submitted during this time. However, once the maintenance mode is over, ESTA authorization can be obtained again in the regular manner.
You can also find the most important information about the ESTA application here, briefly summarized and free to download in PDF format.
With ESTA, tourists and business travelers can travel to the USA for up to 90 days without a visa. However, ESTA must be applied for in advance. Here you will find tips and advice on the electronic ESTA application.