How does ESTA application work?

In order to travel to the United States if you live in a foreign country, you must be approved by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization(ESTA). This automated system determines eligibility of visitors looking to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program at any time. Remember, being authorized by the ESTA does not mean you are admissible. There is an application process you must go through. The officials for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection have the sole responsibility to decide on admissibility when travelers arrive to the area.

When you fill out the application it will collect all biographical information and use the answers from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) eligible questions. There are no deadlines or restrictions when submitting an application. However, prior to leaving you must submit them before you intend on traveling to the U.S. For best results, it’s best to apply as soon as you know your travel dates or before the big purchase of the tickets. Keep in mind, as of April 1st 2016, all travelers must have an e-passport in order to use VWP. Here are a list of things to keep in mind to do before your ESTA application and flying to the U.S. under VWP.



  • Must be a citizen or from a Visa Waiver Program area
  • Currently don’t have a visitor’s visa in your possession
  • You travel plans are 90 days or less
  • Travel reasons are business or personal
  • You want a brand new authorization for one person or applications for a group of
  • people, two or more



  • Valid working passport from the VWP country
  • Credit Card (American Express, Discover and Mastercard (Diners Club, JCB)
  • Contact info
  • If possible, recent employment status


The Department of Health Services administers the VWP program. It allows for international citizens or dignitaries of particular countries to come to the U.S. either for business or tourism. You are allowed to stay for up to 90 days only and do not need to get a visa. Here are a few countries that are eligible under the VWP.

  • Australia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Japan
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • Portugal
  • Ireland
  • United Kingdom

A fee of $14 is applied to all new applications. It is recommended you apply 72 hours in advance according to the CBP. However, you can apply before boarding at any time. Response times for the applications can be within seconds. You are not required as a VWP traveler to have a printed copy of your ESTA authorization to travel. It is, however, a good idea to have a copy of it with you or for your personal records. Do keep in mind, some Airlines often request that you have a copy with you, so make sure to print one out.