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ESTA Questions - FAQ

The Visa Waiver Program is a US government initiative that allows people of participating nations to enter the US without getting a visa for business or tourism. The benefit of entering the US with an accepted ESTA application is that you can enter the country on short notice.

However, the Visa Waiver Program does not allow everyone to enter the United States. Only citizens of visa waiver program countries, including Swiss nationals, can apply. Travelers with passports from other, non-visa-exempt countries must apply for a B-1 Business Visa or B-2 Visitor Visa, even for short visits. It’s worth noting that a travel authorization (ESTA) must be obtained in advance online, but the I-94W Form is usually completed on the plane or before entering the US port. 

To submit the ESTA application form, a traveler must provide their first and last name, gender, birth date, passport number, passport issuing country and expiration date, citizenship, destination, hotel, and flight number. There are also a number of security questions concerning the criminal record and history of visa revocation or deportation that the traveler must answer. 

Yes, the applicant can submit a request for the ESTA travel authorization before completing it with detail-specific travel plan information. The travel details (such as hotel and flight number) can be updated at a later time. It’s also not required that travelers update their travel details if they change after their ESTA has been approved. 

The ESTA application is done online and shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes. Applicants who submitted their application should receive a response within 72 hours, but situation-specific delays may be expected. Therefore, we encourage travelers to understand whether they are eligible for ESTA and to apply for the visa waiver weeks before their trip. DHS advises travelers to complete the ESTA application as soon as they start planning their trip to the United States. 

If the US government denies an ESTA application, but the traveler still wants to visit the US, they can apply for a non-immigrant visa at any American embassy or consulate. If you believe authorities made a mistake or in case you think you misinterpreted or assumed something as a justification for your denial and later realized it wasn’t, we recommend reaching out to officials so they can review your application further. 

Once a traveler submits their ESTA applicant, they are usually approved and cleared for entry within the United States within 72 hours. Keep in mind these are indicative times. Each case is subjective and may require additional time to be processed. Moreover, travelers should remember that an ESTA authorization does not constitute an entry guarantee into the US. Border officials have the final say at all times. 

The ESTA application data are retained for the remainder of the validity period (two years or until the traveler’s passport expires). DHS may keep this information for up to another year before archiving it for twelve years for law enforcement, national security, or investigative purposes. Thanks to ESTA, the paper I–94W form can now be automated in air and sea conditions. When a VWP visitor is accepted through the automated system, the admission record for that visitor will be preserved for 75 years, per the I–94W retention schedule. For this amount of time, I–94W and I–94 data are maintained to ensure that information concerning a specific admission to the United States is available for providing any relevant immigration or other enforcement benefits. 

Your ESTA has a two-year validity since you first received your authorization. Nonetheless, keep in mind that your ESTA is linked to your passport: if your passport has expired, so has your ESTA. If you wish to know whether your ESTA is still valid, check the date when you first applied and got your positive response, and consult our check or update page. Remember that you will have to reapply for ESTA once it has expired. 

Which countries are eligible to travel under the ESTA authorization?

  • Andora
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Rep.
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom
Citizens from these countries are eligible to apply for ESTA and travel to the USA without a traditional visa. Note that UK nationals eligible to use the ESTA visa waiver program must have permanent residence in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, Scotland, or the Isle of Man.