Please Note: Effective July 1, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) emergency or temporary passports must be electronic passports (e-Passports) to be eligible for travel to the United States under the VWP. This includes VWP applicants who present emergency or temporary passports to transit the United States. Learn more. Review the CBP Website notice.
As of January 12, 2009, a valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to travel to the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin making travel plans.
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. You may be eligible to travel without a visa if you are citizen of one of the following countries and conditions listed beneath apply to you. The Visa Waiver Program applies for the United States of America including Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Visa-free travel does not include those who plan to study, work or remain more than 90 days. Such travelers require visas.
Please do not apply for a visa, if your travel plans meet the Visa Waiver Program requirements. Simply fill-in a short form provided on board the air or sea carrier.
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a new, fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the United States under the VWP. This system will enhance the security of the VWP while enabling the U.S. to maintain and expand participation in the program. Effective January 12, 2009, all VWP travelers will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. After this date, travelers who do not receive travel authorization may be denied boarding or admission at U.S. ports of entry.
* For more information about ESTA or the VWP, as well as Frequently Asked Questions, please refer to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at http://www.cbp.gov/esta.
How ESTA Works
Travelers from VWP countries should log onto the ESTA web site at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov and complete an online application. The web-based system will prompt applicants to provide basic biographical and VWP eligibility information typically requested on a paper I-94 form. Travelers may apply for authorization at any time prior to travel to the U.S., but are encouraged to do so at least 72 hours before traveling. In most cases they will receive a determination of eligibility within seconds.
Possible responses include:
Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.
Travel Not Authorized: Traveler must obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the U.S.
Individuals planning to travel on the Visa Waiver Program should seek ESTA approval well in advance of travel in order to allow time to schedule a nonimmigrant visa interview if required. Visa appointment wait times vary based on demand and may exceed two weeks.
(Please see wait times)
Authorization Pending: Traveler should check the ESTA web site later for a final response.
An approved travel authorization via ESTA is:
- Required for all VWP travelers prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP beginning January 12, 2009;
- Valid, unless revoked, for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first;
- Valid for multiple entries into the U.S. As future trips are planned, or if an applicant’s destination addresses or itineraries change after their authorization has been approved, they may easily update that information through the ESTA web site; and
- Not a guarantee of admissibility to the U.S. at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP.
* For more information, please visit “For International Visitors” at http://www.CBP.gov/travel
Currently, 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below.
Conditions for TravelersAll visa waiver travelers must have a machine-readable passport (MRP), to enter the United States without a visa. If you are a citizen of a visa waiver country and do not have an MRP, you must obtain a visa to present at the port of entry to enter the U.S. This includes all categories of passports – regular, diplomatic, and official, when the traveler is seeking to enter the U.S. for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days. Families seeking to enter the U.S. under the VWP will need to obtain an individual machine-readable passport for each traveler, including infants.Depending on when your passport was issued, other passport requirements apply:
- Machine-readable passports issued before 10/26/05 – no further requirements.
- Machine-readable passports issued between 10/26/05 and 10/25/06 – requires digital photograph printed on the data page or integrated chip with information from the data page.
- Machine-readable passports issued on or after 10/26/06 – requires integrated chip with information from the data page (e-passport). Additional details are available from the Department of Homeland Security.
- Temporary, emergency, official and diplomatic passports are exempted from biometric digital photo and chip requirements, but must be machine-readable.
- Austrian, Italian, French and temporary German passports.
* Your passport is machine readable if the bio page is typed and there are letters, numbers, and symbols across the bottom of the page.
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