Who should apply for ESTA?

All visa-free travelers from visa-free countries must first have an ESTA travel authorization before they can travel to the United States.

  • Minors must also use ESTA, even if they are traveling with their parents.
  • Travelers entering the United States through airports or ports must use ESTA, while travelers arriving over a border are exempt from the requirement.
  • Travelers with a flight connection in the USA to a third country must also use ESTA.
  • Travelers who already have a valid visa for the USA should not use ESTA additionally.

Which travelers are entitled to ESTA?

Some travelers may not be able to have their ESTA approved but will need to apply for a visa instead. This includes travelers like:

  • In the past, either ESTA or visas for the United States have been denied.
  • have previously exceeded their assigned residences in the United States or other countries.
  • Are punished beforehand.
  • suffers from certain infectious diseases (see list in the application form).
  • Resident (or has ever been a citizen) in one of the following countries since March 2011:
    • Iraq
    • Iran
    • Libya
    • North Korea
    • Somalia
    • Sudan
    • Syria
    • Yemen

If your stay took place as part of a service (e.g. if you were seconded by the German Armed Forces), you may still be able to apply for an ESTA. However, we recommend that you contact the U.S. embassy first for a final answer.

How does the ESTA system work?

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization for visa-free travelers to the United States. A travel authorization is not equivalent to a visa, but rather a prior consent from the traveler that will help ensure that he or she meets all entry requirements for travelers to the United States, thereby avoiding situations where visitors will be denied and by the US Border Protection Agency repatriated. Even so, you must go through border control upon arrival, even if you have an ESTA travel permit.

What does it mean that ESTA is an electronic system?

ESTA is a complete electronic travel authorization system. This means that all applications are submitted electronically by filling out an online application form. The travel authorization is also issued electronically. This means that the ESTA authorization is linked to the passport number in a central database. This allows airport staff and border officials to check ESTA status by simply scanning the traveller’s passport. You do not need to bring a printout of your travel authorization with you.

How long is an ESTA valid for?

An ESTA travel authorization is usually valid for up to 2 years, provided your passport does not expire before then. If your passport expires beforehand, your ESTA will automatically expire at the same time. There is no limit to the number of times you can visit the United States during the Period, with a limit of 90 days at a time. The 90 days also include stays in neighboring Canada and Mexico, as well as certain nearby islands. Do not return to the United States immediately after your stay in the United States. If it turns out that you are de facto living in the United States, you can be repatriated on arrival.

How does the 90 day rule work in practice?

If you are visiting Canada or Mexico at the same time as you are visiting the USA, the days you are there also count towards the 90 days that you are allowed to stay in the USA. For example, if you travel to the US for 60 days, travel to Mexico for 20 days and then return to the US, you usually have to leave the US within 10 days of your stay in Mexico.

How do I apply for an ESTA?

To start your ESTA application, simply fill out the application form on this page. In this form you have to enter your personal and travel details and answer a number of background questions. If your travel details are unsure, you can enter “UNKNOWN” or “0000” instead. The form is simple and straightforward and can be completed in less than a quarter of an hour per traveler. After you’ve completed and paid your application, it can take up to three days for you to receive a response to your application, although the vast majority of travelers will get a response on the day you submit your application.

How do I get an answer to my application?

You will receive the answer to your ESTA application at the e-mail address you provided on the application form. Therefore, it is extremely important that you retype your email address without spelling mistakes. If you enter your email address incorrectly, you may not receive the reply to your application in time, as the reply will only be sent by email.