ESTA application

ESTA form information

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.


Changes in the ESTA application

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

  • Iraq,
  • Iran,
  • Yemen,
  • Libya,
  • Somalia,
  • Syria,
  • Sudan

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.

Consequences for ESTA applicants

The stricter entry requirements have an impact on the following groups of people in particular:

  1. TouristsWestern Europeans, Australians and New Zealanders make up the largest percentage of non-Chinese North Korea vacationers, and theymust now make alternative arrangements to apply for a U.S. visa. Generally, a B-2 tourist visa should be eligible.
  2. Nationals from South KoreaMainlyhigh-ranking nationals from South Korea as well as business owners and managers will feel the impact of the new ESTA rules, as these are among the groups of people who travel to North Korea more frequently.
  3. Business travelersBusiness travelersand employees of non-governmental organizations who have spent time in North Korea must now apply for a B-1 Business Visitor visa or consider alternative visa categories. It remains to be seen whether exemptions will apply to NGO employees.


What happens to valid ESTA applications?

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!

Apply for ESTA now

What is an ESTA application?

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).

The ESTA application is done online on the website of our ESTA experts at or on the application website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)

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:

  1. Personal DataIn addition toname, other names ever used (e.g., maiden or birth names) and parents' names must be entered.
  2. Contact informationAddressand emergency contact information in or outside the U.S.
  3. Passport information and identificationPersonal identification number(if available) and additional passport information or whether one holds additional passports
  4. Employer information
  5. Information on a contact person in the USA
  6. Security related questions

These questions in the ESTA application are mandatory. This means that it is mandatory to provide this information requested in the ESTA application.

Social media and ESTA

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.

When should the ESTA application be submitted?

The ESTA application can be submitted at any time, even without specific travel dates. However, ESTA approval must be obtained prior 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.

Please note: ESTA approvals in real time are no longer available, which means that a decision on the ESTA application will no longer be made within a few seconds.
Last-minute ESTA applications, which were obtained in an emergency at the airport shortly before departure, are therefore no longer possible.

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.

Reisepass Laptop Antrag

The ESTA application is filled out and submitted online


How long does it take to obtain an ESTA application?

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.

What does an ESTA application cost?

For the ESTA application, the U.S. authorities charge a fee of $21 per person since September 2010. The ESTA fee is made up as follows:

  • Processing fee = 4 US dollars
  • Approval fee = 17 US dollars

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 $17 will be refunded.

Attention: The ESTA application will be processed by the US authorities only after payment has been received.

Those who use the services of the specialized ESTA provider pay an additional service fee. In return for this

  • the application is submitted using a simplified form,
  • you will be advised in real time vialive chat,
  • your application will bereviewedby ESTA experts,
  • there is a money-back guarantee in case of a rejection
  • and much more!

ESTA Application Help

We highly recommend The American Dream's ESTA experts to help you apply for an ESTA travel authorization!

Apply for ESTA now

Check ESTA Application - 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

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:

  • Your email address
  • Address in the USA

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.

Personal and passport information

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$21 processing fee will be charged each time you submit a new ESTA application.

Security questions ("Yes"/"No" questions).

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.

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

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:

  • Application ID (if available)
  • First and last name
  • Date of birth
  • Passport number
  • Telephone number (including country code) and a brief English-language explanation.

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).

Refusal of an ESTA application - ESTA denied

Why is an ESTA application rejected?

Within the framework of the ESTA application review, two reasons for rejection can be distinguished:

  1. Rejection due to incorrect information in the ESTA form.
    It can happen that a wrong entry is made in the ESTA form by mistake. Unfortunately, most information cannot be updated after payment has been made through the ESTA system.
    If you believe that your ESTA application was denied due to a misstatement, it is recommended that you contact the CBP Info Center via ESTA Help Form.There you have the possibility to describe your concern in English. In some cases, the ESTA application can then be reset by the responsible US authority, so that you can simply submit a new ESTA application afterwards. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee that the ESTA application will be reset.
  2. Rejection without incorrect information in the ESTA form
    Furthermore, it is always possible that the ESTA application will be rejected without having made a wrong statement or possibly 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 citizenship
  • travel to certain countries or
  • an affirmative answer to the "yes"/"no" security questions.

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.

What to do after an ESTA application has been denied?

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.

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.

Passport upload in ESTA application required

Since December 2022, it is required 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.

Our recommendation

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:

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

Practical tip

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.


You can also find the most important information about the ESTA application here, briefly summarized and free to download in PDF format.

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