In advance of visa-free entry into the US, all travelers must fill out an ESTA application or can present a still valid ESTA.

In the following, we explain which requirements apply for ESTA and explain how to submit an ESTA application.

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What is an ESTA application?

The ESTA application or ESTA authorization is an electronic travel authorization, called Electronic System for Travel Authorization. An ESTA authorization is part of the Visa Waiver Program (Visa Waiver Program / VWP) and mandatory requirement if you want to enter the USA without a visa.

The ESTA application is made online on the application website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or on the website of our sister company, under

ESTA application

The ESTA application can be submitted without any specific travel dates. However, it is crucial to obtain ESTA approval before traveling by plane or ship. Here you can find out why it is essential to apply in good time.

In our experience, a decision on your ESTA application is still usually made within 24 hours. However, as there is no guarantee of this, we recommend that all travelers apply for their ESTA before booking their flight to the USA in order to avoid problems when entering the country and to have enough time to apply for a visa if your ESTA is rejected.

How long does the application take?

Once you have gathered all the important information about your planned trip to the USA, you can fill out your ESTA application relatively quickly. The ESTA application should then take no longer than 30 minutes.
With newer passports, it's even faster via app.

Passport upload mandatory

Since December 2022, it has been mandatory to upload a photo of your passport when applying for an ESTA on the official U.S. Customs and Border Protection website in order to transfer the information from the machine-readable part of the passport directly to the ESTA application.

A photo in gif, png, jpg or jpeg format can be easily uploaded on a PC, laptop or app. The data will then be read out, which you should then check again.

Our recommendation

Due to the sensitivity of the system, we recommend that you enter the application information via a desktop or laptop.

In both cases, it is important that the machine-readable part of your passport, i.e. the two bottom lines, take up the full width of the photo so that they can be read correctly.

If you have a newer passport (recognizable by its thinner outer cover), this can also be used for applications via app. In this case, the smartphone reads the data directly from the passport's RFID chip via the ESTA app.

The following data from your passport can be transferred:

  • Surname
  • First name
  • Gender
  • Passport number
  • Country of issue
  • Nationality
  • Date of birth
  • Validity of the passport

Practical tip

Depending on the quality of the photo, it is quite possible that data will be transferred incorrectly and your ESTA application will therefore be invalid. You should therefore check the data that was transferred when you uploaded your passport.

We have more information on the step-by-step ESTA application in the following articles:

Application via app

For holders of newer passports (issued after 2017), it is now also possible to submit the ESTA application via app since 2023. Via the ESTA app, applicants are easily guided through the process.

  • Download the app "ESTA mobile" from the app store of your provider
  • If you already have a current/approved ESTA, you can call it up or start a new application
  • Scan the photo page of the passport so that it is within the specified border
  • Position your smartphone on the outer cover of the passport to read the RFID chip data
  • Position your face inside the oval circle on the display
  • Now fill in the rest of the data in the application and check if the read data is correct
  • Pay the 21 USD by MasterCard, VISA, American Express or PayPal
  • You can view your data at any time in the app and do not need an additional printout for the trip

Mandatory information in the ESTA application

Certain queries in the ESTA application are mandatory fields. This means that some of the information requested in the ESTA application is mandatory.

Within the ESTA form, the following things are listed as mandatory information:

  1. Personal data
  2. Contact details
  3. Passport data and ID card
  4. Employer information
  5. Information about a contact person in the USA
  6. Safety related issues

Social Media disclosures now voluntary again

In recent years, there has always been an obligation to provide information about one's social media behavior in the ESTA form. Currently, this is an optional question and is no longer part of the mandatory information in the ESTA application.

In addition to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, applicants were also able to specify other social media accounts, if available. Passwords were not required.

The information about ESTA applicants' online presences is intended to help U.S. authorities identify potential terrorist threats.

We answer the most frequently asked questions about the ESTA form and the input fields in our Instructions for filling out the ESTA application form.

What does an ESTA application cost?

For the ESTA application, the US authorities charge a fee of $21 per person. The ESTA fee is composed as follows:

  • Handling fee = $4
  • Permit fee = $17

The ESTA fee can be paid on the official application page of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security can be paid exclusively by credit card, debit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover (JCB, Diners Club) or by PayPal.

In the event of an ESTA denial, $4 will be withheld for processing done and only $17 will be refunded.

Attention: The ESTA application will be processed by the US authorities only after receipt of payment.

Check ESTA status

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:

  • Your passport number
  • Your date of birth
  • Your ESTA application number

At ESTA Status Check or after filling out the ESTA application, one of the following three answer options will appear:

Authorization Pending:

Your ESTA application will be processed by the US authorities

Authorization Approved:

Your ESTA application has been approved

Travel Not Authorized:

You are not allowed to enter visa-free with ESTA. Alternatively, you can apply for a US visa.

Normally, ESTA approval is pending for the time being. The US authorities usually decide on your ESTA application within 72 hours.

Once your ESTA application is approved, you can check your information and update the following data:

  • Your email address
  • Address in the USA

All other information cannot be changed afterwards. When you click on the official ESTA website under "Check ESTA Status" and click on "Update", you will be taken to a clearly arranged page where you can check and, if necessary, change these two items of information.

Personal and passport details

If you have made a typing error in the passport or biographical information and do not realize the error until the application has already been paid and approved, you must submit a new ESTA application. The previous ESTA application will be reset and can thus be "overwritten".

Please note that you will also need to apply for a new ESTA authorization when you are issued a new passport or passport changes.

The corresponding processing fee of $21 is charged each time a new ESTA application is submitted.

Security issues

Furthermore, the ESTA application consists of nine security questions, which applicants sometimes misunderstand and inadvertently answer "yes" to. If a security question is answered with "yes", this usually leads to an automatic rejection of the electronic travel authorization.

Applicants can contact the help center of the responsible U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency to clarify how the misunderstanding of the incorrectly answered question came about.

In order to simplify processing by the US authorities, you should provide the most precise information possible when contacting them, e.g. select the keyword "ESTA" under "Topic" and the answer option "I have been denied ESTA or cannot board" under "Issue". Ideally, you should also include the following points in the English-language explanation of your issue ("Description"):

  • Application ID (if available)
  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Passport number
  • Telephone number (including country code)

You also have the option of attaching documents.

Due to the high volume of applications, it can sometimes take up to several weeks for theU.S. Customs and Border Protectionresponds. In the best case scenario, the application is reset so that it can be resubmitted.

If the US authority does not respond or the application is not reset, it must be noted that the rejection of the electronic travel authorization automatically means a block on visa-free entry to the USA. In this case, the person concerned must apply for a visa for the USA (B-1 for business trips or B-2 for vacation).

Need help with your ESTA application?

For people who need help with the ESTA application, this can also be booked through an agency. The specialized team of our sister company The American Dream assists USA travelers with the application process for an additional service fee.
Services include:

  • Application via a simplified form
  • Real time consulting per live chat
  • Review of the application by ESTA experts
  • Money back guarantee, in case of rejection
  • and much more!

Refusal of an ESTA application

Why is an ESTA application denied?

Two grounds for refusal can be distinguished in the review of the ESTA application:

1. Rejection due to incorrect information in the ESTA form
It may happen that a wrong information is entered in the ESTA form by mistake. Unfortunately, most information cannot be updated after the payment has been made through the ESTA system.
If you believe that your ESTA application was denied due to a misrepresentation, then it is recommended that you contact the CBP to contact us. There you have the possibility to describe your request in English. In individual cases, the ESTA application can then be reset by the responsible US authority, so that you can then simply submit a new ESTA application. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the ESTA application will be reset.

ESTA Ablehnungsbescheid

2. Rejection without incorrect information in the ESTA form
In addition, it is always possible that the ESTA application will be rejected without making a false statement or being aware of a reason. There can be several reasons for this, such as

  • a name similarity with another person who has already attracted attention
  • dual citizenships
  • Travel to certain countries or
  • an affirmative answer to the "Yes"/"No" security prompts.

Since there is no guarantee that the ESTA application will be approved, we recommend that the electronic travel authorization be submitted during the travel planning process - at least 72 hours prior to departure.

What to do after an ESTA application has been rejected?

If your ESTA application has been rejected and cannot be reset, you must apply submit for aVisa for the USA at a competent US consulate.
We will be happy to help you with the application for a Tourist visa, please contact us for a consultation.

Attention:After an ESTA rejection, you cannot simply submit a new ESTA application. If you try to do so, the application will be rejected again immediately.

Visa alternative for ESTA

In the event of an ESTA refusal, travelers to the USA must submit a so-called Visitor visa (B visa) apply: Business travelers need a B-1 Visas, tourists a B-2 Visas.

Please note that the visa application for persons affected by the ESTA tightening could be additionally delayed. This is due to security checks.

Applying for a prompt 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 take a Request an emergency appointment.

When applying for a visa, it is advisable to enclose the ESTA refusal as "proof": When making an appointment via the web-based visa profile you have the option of uploading the ESTA refusal.
It is also advisable to carry the ESTA rejection letter with you on the day of the visa interview appointment.

Whether you receive an emergency appointment is decided solely by the US consulate.

The most frequently asked questions about ESTA

The decisive factor for ESTA validity is not the duration of stay, but rather theTime of entry. For example, if the USA stay is planned from September 10 to 20 and the ESTA application expires on September 15, the current ESTA authorization can still be used for this USA trip (even if the authorization expires during the stay).

The length of time ESTA travelers are allowed to stay in the United States is determined by their residency status, which is determined by CBP officers upon entry. Dates of entry and exit are listed in the online ESTA.I-94 Entry formin the range"View Compliance"apparent.

Incidentally, the validity of the personal ESTA authorization can be checked online at any time. Via the official ESTA website, the ESTA application can be retrieved at any time. We recommend allVisa Waiver Programtravelers to check existing ESTA applications online for validity prior to travel.

Tip:Since the beginning of January 2018, ESTA travelers receive an email automatically ten days before their residency status expires as a reminder that they are leaving the U.S. on time. The sender of the email is[email protected].

The Visa Waiver Program allows travelers a maximum stay of up to 90 days per entry. This is not a legal entitlement: the border officials decide whether and for how long the person may enter the country and note this in the passport. In addition, the respective residence status forVisa Waiver ProgramTravelers online via the electronicI-94 Shaperecorded in the system of the US authorities.

An extension of the stay beyond these 90 days is not possible. An extension of the VWP residency status in the USA on site is basically not permitted, even by short entry and re-exit, e.g. to Mexico or Canada. Travelers to the USA are therefore strongly advised to adhere to the maximum length of stay of 90 days in order to prevent problems the next time they enter the United States.

Exception: In urgent or unforeseeable cases (e.g., flight cancellations due to severe weather or strikes, or if there are serious medical reasons) that make a return flight and thus leaving the U.S. within the 90 days impossible, U.S. immigration authorities (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration ServicesUSCIS) may grant an exemption. However, this is at the sole discretion of USCIS and the request for this can only be made at a USCIS office. If a visit to a USCIS service center is not possible because the traveler has to stay on the airport premises due to a storm, it is strongly recommended to keep all receipts about the storm and the cancelled flights so that they can be presented in case of possible inquiries by the US authorities.

The Global Entry procedure serves exclusively to accelerate the entry procedure and does not replace an entry and residence permit.

Thus, participants of the Global Entry Program still need a valid U.S. visa or a valid ESTA authorization (if they are traveling visa-free) to enter the U.S. in any case.Global Entry registration is possible with the most common US visas (e.g. B-1 Business Visa or E-Work Visa).

Attention: The use of Global Entry is not possible with all visa categories.

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Important!Since January 21, 2016, nationals of the above countries are not allowed to enter visa-free if they:

  • Also possess Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian citizenship, or
  • Traveled to (or were present in) the following countries on or after March 01, 2011: Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Syria or Sudan.

Some exceptions apply to travel or presence for official reasons (e.g. as a diplomat or soldier of a VWP country). But VWP nationals who also hold Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian citizenship cannot use this exception and are thus forced to apply for a visa.

(Status: 25.04.2016)

ESTA applications can be submitted at any time prior to travel to the USA (even without specific travel dates). We strongly recommend that you apply for an authorization as soon as you start planning your trip, but no later than 72 hours before departure.
Please be sure to keep the application number you received. You will need this number to be able to change any data afterwards.For example, if an applicant's destination address or travel dates change after the permit has been issued, the information can be easily updated on the ESTA website.
Of course, ESTA applications can also be submitted at very short notice, as approval is usually granted within a few seconds. Nevertheless, for the safety of our customers we recommend to apply for an approval as early as possible!

In most cases, the ESTA system determines online almost immediately (within a few seconds) whether the applicant will be allowed entry under the VWP. However, the approval phase can also take up to 72 hours.
The following three responses to the online inquiry are conceivable:

  • Permission granted
  • Entry not authorized
  • Approval is being processed

If you receive an "approval is being processed" response, you will need to log back into your application at a later time on the ESTA website and check to see if a final response has been issued.

The airlines or shipping companies have the possibility to check at the check-in on the basis of the passport data of the traveler whether an ESTA authorization is available. A printout of the issued ESTA authorization is therefore usually not mandatory.
A few airlines request a printout of the ESTA approval from travelers in advance. If you want to be sure, you can have a printout of the positive ESTA notice ready on the day of your trip.

Once you have successfully completed the ESTA application and submitted it online, it will be checked against relevant law enforcement databases, i.e. subjected to a security check. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) stores the information for another year and keeps it in the archive for twelve years; thus, your data can be retrieved at any time for further law enforcement and investigative purposes.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will send a reminder to individuals who have provided their email address in the application and havewhose ESTA travel authorization expires.
The email currently states the following:

ATTENTION! Your travel authorization submitted on (date) via ESTA will expire within the next 30 days. It is not possible to extend or renew a current ESTA. You will need to reapply athttps://esta.cbp.dhs.govif travel to the United States is intended in the near future. If there are 30 or more days left on the old authorization you will receive a warning message during the application process and be asked if you wish to proceed.

All travelers are obliged to check whether they still have a valid ESTA authorization before departure.

No, ESTA is not a visa. It is an application for travel authorization that only travelers who are visa free are allowed to travel to the USA(see FAQ Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program?), put.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) allows the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to determine whether travelers are eligible to enter the United States under the VWP prior to travel.

Visa holder

As a rule, visa holders do not need to apply for ESTA approval.However, the reason of your entry must correspond to the visa category.If not, it is recommended to apply for ESTA approval. As an example: A traveler has a US work visa, but is flying to the USA for purely tourist purposes. Here we recommend to fill out an ESTA authorization in advance to be on the safe side.

The VWP can also be used for business activities ("Business Visa Waiver"), albeit in a very limited scope. For example, for trade fairs or meetings with business partners or customers. All further business entry purposes that correspond to "work" (such as consulting services, etc.) no longer fall under this program, even if the stay should be limited to 90 days. Here must be a US Work Visa be requested in advance.
Not infrequently, the lines between using the VWP and having to apply for a visa are blurred -- because it is not always clear whether the U.S. immigration authorities will consider an activity as "work" or not. The key here is to weigh up on a case-by-case basis, by taking into account all the underlying conditions (such as frequency of entry, purpose and duration of stay), whether a visa-free entry is sufficient or whether a visa is required. In addition, one should not forget that the border official, who will ask questions about your purpose of stay, may understand everything that is not a meeting or participation in trade fairs as work and then deny you entry.
However, we will be happy to advise you on this topic!


A stay of up to a maximum of 90 days at a time per entry is possible. An extension of the residence status in the U.S. is generally not allowed, not even by short entry and re-exit, e.g. to Mexico or Canada.
A so-called change of status to a US visa is generally not possible under the Visa Waiver Program. In the case of higher entry frequencies and longer periods of stay, a change of status to a B-1 Business Visitor Visa be applied for in advance of entry or, if applicable, a US Work Visa.

1. passport information (passport number or expiration date) or personal data (name, place or date of birth) is incorrect or has changed:
The only way to correct this information is to fill out a new ESTA application. If your previous ESTA authorization was granted, you should be able to submit a new application without any problems. To be on the safe side, please close all browser windows or the ESTA website before submitting the new ESTA application.
Ignore possible indications that there is already an ESTA travel authorization in the system and confirm that you actually want to fill out a new application. Once the new ESTA application has been submitted, the old ESTA registration will be deleted.
For the new ESTA application, the fee of 14 US dollars will apply again.
Please print out the new, correct ESTA application for your own safety.

2. your contact details (e.g. e-mail address or postal address) are incorrect or have changed:
If this information changes after the permit has been issued, or if you notice an error, this can easily be updated on the ESTA website by selecting the "Update or Check Status" button.
The validity period of the ESTA registration is not affected by updating your data. There are no additional fees for updating the ESTA application.
Please be sure to keep your application number. You will need this number to be able to change any data afterwards. (In an emergency, it is also possible to update this data without the application number by providing personal data).

3. you incorrectly answered a security question that was critical to your eligibility to enter the U.S. under the VWP and as a result you were not granted ESTA travel authorization:
In any case, if you misunderstood the question or originally thought that an incident from your past was grounds for rejection and have now found out that it is not, you should email United States Customs and Border Protection (U.S. Customs and Border Protection, CBP)get in touch.
A new ESTA authorization must also be requested. Please note that despite a new, approved ESTA permit, there may be difficulties at the border. If, for example, you answered "Yes" to the question about possible criminal records and now ticked "No", the border official could assume that you want to conceal a possible (but existing) criminal offense. The same applies to information about possible infectious diseases, visa refusals, etc. In case of doubt, you should consider applying for a visa at the U.S. consulate if the "yes/no" questions in the initial ESTA application are incorrect, in order to prevent problems upon entry.

VWP travelers who cannot present an ESTA authorization will certainly be denied access to the commercial airplane/ship. The airlines or shipping companies have the possibility to check at the check-in, based on the passport data of the traveler, whether an ESTA authorization is available.
ESTA authorization is not required if you are entering the USA by land (from Canada or Mexico). However, if you are traveling by commercial ship or plane, you will definitely not be allowed to enter the US at the border without ESTA authorization. Don't hope for exceptions, the US border officials enforce this legal rule consistently.

An entry fee of $21 is charged for an ESTA application or updating an existing ESTA application.
The fee is due when applying for the ESTA permit on the Internet. The ESTA application will only be processed after payment has been received. Payment can only be made by credit card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover) or debit card. However, payment of the application fee can also be made by third parties, e.g. relatives or travel agents, if you do not have your own credit card.

Who is exempt from the fee not affected:

  • Basically, all travelers entering the country with a valid U.S. visa
  • Travelers with already approved and still valid ESTA permits
  • Travelers with already approved and still valid ESTA authorizations who are only updating certain data (e.g., travel dates)

The fee is not charged per entry, but per ESTA authorization. And the ESTA authorization is usually valid for two years, unless the passport expires earlier.

The ESTA fee of $21 is made up of two types of fees:

  • Handling fee in the amount of 4 US dollars
  • Permit fee in the amount of 17 US dollars

If the ESTA application is denied, only the fee for processing the application will be charged and deducted from the credit card, i.e. $4.

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