A visa-free entry?

We often receive inquiries about the visa requirement for entry into the USA, including the terms ESTA visa or ESTA visa. Therefore, we would like to clarify at this point what the myth of ESTA visas is all about.



First of all, we would like to dispel the myth of ESTA visas once and for all. Even though our visa experts hear or read about ESTA visas in many customer inquiries, from a technical point of view ESTA visas do not exist. ESTA is an entry permit for the USA, which is often wrongly called ESTA visa. However, it is not a visa or a special visa category.
The abbreviation ESTA stands for 
Electronic System for Travel Authorization.  This refers to a web-based travel authorization system. ESTA enables visa-free entry into the USA within the framework of the so-called Visa Waiver Program. Translated, the program stands for visa-free travel. Those who have ESTA approval can travel to and stay in the United States without first applying for a U.S. visa. It is primarily aimed at tourist and business travelers to the USA. Other visas are required for work or study stays.


ESTA is, if you will, the "opposite" of a visa.
The Visa Waiver Program applies to certain nationals with valid passports and allows a stay in the USA for up to 90 days without a visa. In the run-up to the trip to the USA, only a so-called ESTA application must be obtained online. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS for short, is responsible for this.

ESTA can be applied for at least 72 hours before departure. Compared to the U.S. visa, the application process is relatively quick or short notice before the planned trip to the United States. It is recommended to be able to prove the return ticket already at the time of application in order to be able to ensure an intention to leave the country to the US authorities. Due to an agreement with Canada, the Caribbean countries and Mexico, the return ticket may not end in these countries, but it is possible to spend a few days in these countries during the stay with ESTA.

A US visa is also applied for online, but the application process is much more extensive. To obtain a visa, the DS-160 online form must first be submitted to the US authorities. After that, almost every visa applicant has to visit the U.S. consulate once again for a visa appointment in person. If the visa application is approved, then the US visa is affixed to the passport.

Attention: There are many different visa categories, but "only" one ESTA. In the future, you should therefore make sure that you make a clear distinction in ESTA visas and distinguish between ESTA or visa.

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

Download PDF



Related topics