Travellers to the United States of America are only allowed to enter if they possess an ESTA, a US visa or an American or Canadian passport. But what is an ESTA?

American flagESTA explanation

What is an ESTA?

What does ESTA mean? An ESTA is a digital travel authorisation to travel to the USA, without a visa.

ESTA is an abbreviation and stands for: “Electronic System for Travel Authorization”. It is also often referred to as the “ESTA USA”.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation is a safety measure with which the government of the United States of America can bar unwanted travellers before they can board a flight or ship to the USA. This also applies to transit through the US. In this, the ESTA strongly resembles the electronic travel programs of other governments, such as the eTA Canada and the eVisitor visa for Australia. Worldwide, more and more governments are implementing systems similar to the ESTA as replacements to the sticker-visa and/or travelling without a visa entirely.

Benefits of the ESTA USA

By applying for an ESTA, travelling to the USA is allowed without a visa. The ESTA USA is easier, faster and cheaper to apply for than a regular US visa. For a visa application, an appointment has to be made at the US Consulate. For an ESTA application, only the online application form has to be filled in. In urgent cases, the ESTA USA is on average granted within an hour after making the payment. This happens through an automated notification per email and SMS.

ESTA statement

The purpose of the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation is to bar travellers who are trying to travel to the USA with unwanted intentions. These are understood as pertaining to the endangerment of the safety and/or law enforcement of the USA. Through the ESTA form, the US Customs and Border Protection agency knows beforehand who wishes to travel into the country. This way, unwanted travellers can be easily denied access to the USA. A part of this relatively straightforward check is a simple legal system. This is realised by the ESTA statement which is part of every application. In this statement, the applicant declares that none of the travellers that are part of the ESTA application (from a single application form) will appeal against the final decision on whether a traveller is allowed entry onto US soil.

Implementing the ESTA

The American Department of Homeland Security has implemented the ESTA system to improve the safety and enhance control of flights to the USA. In part due to the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001, this system was put into effect and replaced the green I-94W form which had to be filled in on the plane, in which travellers had to provide information about themselves, their trip, and their residence.

Validity document

What about the US visa? For a visa application a visit has to be made to the US consulate, while the ESTA application procedure happens entirely online. Other benefits of the ESTA USA include lower costs and faster approval (in urgent cases often within an hour). Applying for a US visa is thus only recommended for travellers that do not qualify for an ESTA.

Apply for ESTA

Travellers can easily apply for an ESTA through this website. The ESTA declaration can be submitted through the digital application form. As soon as the USA immigration service has given their approval, this confirmation is sent by email and SMS. Press the button below to start the application process right away, or to learn more about the ESTA procedure.

Everything about the ESTA and how to apply for one