Who can apply for an ESTA Visa?
An ESTA is a temporary travel document granted to those wishing to travel to the USA from countries that are signed up to the Visa Waiver Program, making obtaining the relevant documentation easier and faster.
A fee will be required for processing, and security standards have recently been tightened too, although the system is in place to make your ESTA application to travel to the USA as smooth as possible, with processing times typically lasting just a few days. The system is automated and designed to offer basic checks on whether travellers will pose a risk to safety or security while in the USA, and you can check up on the exact process of your application online quickly and easily.
Not all countries are signed up to the program, however, and there can be exceptions for those looking to apply. An ESTA is not a visa, and will not function as a visa for situations where one is legally required, including citizens of countries not participating on the Visa Waiver Program. This guide will tell you whether or not you need to apply for an ESTA.
Who is required to apply for an ESTA?
Anybody who is a citizen or national of a country included in the USA’s Visa Waiver Program can make an ESTA registration if they are not in possession of a visitor’s visa. The program applies to all those seeking to travel to the USA for business or pleasure, who will be staying for less than 90 days.
Countries eligible for the Visa Waiver Program are: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. There is a process underway for other countries, such as those who have signed up to the Memoranda of Understanding of the Visa Waiver Program, to later join the system. However, at present, only the countries above are eligible and required to apply for an ESTA while visiting or travelling through the USA.
ESTAs are now mandatory, so if you are not in possession of an ESTA already, or a valid visa, and have a passport from one of the above countries, you will need to apply for an ESTA for the USA.
Do I need to apply if I am only stopping en route to another country?
Yes. Even if you are only passing through the USA, you will still need to apply for an ESTA for the right to travel. In the application, where you will be asked your address while in the USA, you will need to add “In Transit” and your final destination. The USA no longer has a Transit Without Visa system, so this is essential and applies to anyone boarding an aeroplane or vessel bound for the USA.
Do citizens of Bermuda, Canada, the Marshall Islands, or Micronesia need to apply?
No. Only citizens or nationals of countries subject to the Visa Waiver Program will need to apply for an ESTA.
If I have a B1/B2 visa do I still need to apply?
If you have a valid visa, you will be ineligible for an ESTA and will not require one. The Visa Waiver Program is to operate in lieu of a visa, rather than instead of one. You will still require a visa for situations where one is legally required, but if you already possess a valid visa, you do not need an ESTA.
Do nationals of countries that signed a VWP Memoranda of Understanding need a US visa?
No. While countries who have signed up to this stage of the program could be accepted in the future, these are not yet full members of the ESTA program and citizens of these countries will need to apply for a visa. Countries signed up to the VWP Memoranda of Understanding are: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovakia and South Korea. These countries must meet certain criteria for travellers before they are eligible to sign up to become full members of the Visa Waiver Program.
Do children require an ESTA too?
All children, whether accompanied or unaccompanied, will need to sign up for an independent ESTA approval separately to their parents or guardians.
Can a group of travellers sign up for their ESTA at the same time?
Yes, multiple applications for groups can be processed and paid for together before you travel, to make the process easier for groups of two or more persons travelling together to the USA.