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The USA Visa Waiver Program 2018-05-15T13:38:24+00:00

All you need to know about the Visa Waiver Program

Helping you perparing for your trip to the U.S.

Travellers entering the U.S.A. have to deal with the valid immigration regulations. It is particularly important to note that different regulations apply to different countries. Citizens of certain countries must apply for a regular visa, such as a B1/B2 visa to visit the United States. At the same time, there are also countries that have simplified entry regulations. These countries are members of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

If a person has a passport and the citizenship of a VWP member country, the visa for the USA can be applied for in a compact online procedure. The visa issued upon successful participation in the Visa Waiver Program is called ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

Important: Every time you enter the U. S., you must have a valid visa. Those who attempt to enter the United States without an ESTA or a similar visa are generally banned from continuing their journey before boarding the aircraft. No visa, no entry.

Our website dedicated to the Visa Waiver program provides you with everything you need to prepare yourself perfectly for your trip to the USA.

Your visawaiver. com team!

First things first: Find out if you can take part in the Visa Waiver Program

Check your visa requirements for the U.S.A.

USA visa information

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The Visa Waiver Program and USA ESTA information is divided into sections. Please use the menu on the left for faster navigation. At the end of each section you will find a “back to the table of contents” button with which you can jump directly back to the quick selection.

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Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The prototype of the Visa Waiver Program was first introduced in 1986. The basic idea of the program is to ensure that nationals of certain states have easier access to the United States. The countries selected are those which are, according to American standards, safe countries with good relations to the USA. The first countries to benefit from a simplified entry procedure included the United Kingdom, Switzerland and Germany.
The list of countries eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program is reviewed on an ongoing basis. Gradually, more and more states are to be added to the program, provided that they meet the requirements for this.
An overview of the countries that are currently members of the Visa Waiver Program is shown below:

Visa Waiver Program world map

Following the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001, the rules governing the Visa Waiver Program have been tightened considerably. The first change concerned the type of passport that can be used for VWP participation. The uniform introduction of electronic passports was called for and gradually implemented. However, the application and participation in the program itself was not yet fully electronic at that time. Only with the introduction of the USA ESTA, the electronic system for applying for travel permits in 2008, did an online visa application process become available. Since then, the terms ESTA and Visa Waiver Program have gone hand in hand, as only citizens of VWP countries can participate in the ESTA to obtain a visa for the USA.

In order to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, an online application for an USA ESTA must be launched via the official website of the U. S. Border Administration. Alternatively, service providers can also be contracted to apply for a visa, but it is imperative to make sure that this is a reputable provider.

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ESTA

ESTA (short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is the name of the online process for applying for a US visa. USA’s ESTA was introduced in 2008 and has been requested and used by millions of visitors every year since then. An ESTA should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure, as a detailed check by the authorities can be carried out at any time. Other reasons may also lead to delays, and the official authority therefore expressly recommends that applications be submitted in good time. An USA ESTA is applied for online using an application form. A processing fee must be paid to complete the application. Afterwards, the status of your own ESTA can be retrieved and checked via the authority’s website.

Important: Even if an ESTA is approved following the online application, border officials in the USA may still decide against entry if they consider it appropriate. The receipt of an US ESTA permit does not constitute a guarantee for an entry permit.

How to apply for an ESTA

You can start an US ESTA application through the official website of the department of homeland security. Applicants can either start single applications or group applications. The good thing about a group application is that you will be able to pay for all added applications at once. So if you are ordering ESTA for your family or friends, you can save some time by using the group application feature. During the process of applying for your USA ESTA, you will need a valid passport to supply information about passport number as well as citizenship, date of issue and date of expiry. You will also need credit card to pay the fee.

Apply for an ESTA

ESTA validity

With ESTA, an applicant receives a two year timeframe to enter the US as often as he desires. A maximum duration of 3 months is prescribed and must not be exceeded. In addition, ESTA may only be used for tourist purposes and for business trips, e. g. it is forbidden to work with an ESTA while entering the country. The maximum runtime of an US ESTA always depends on the remaining runtime of the passport used in the application. If the passport expires before the expiry date of the ESTA, or if it is lost, the USA ESTA also loses its validity. ESTA approval can be renewed at any time by submitting a new application. If there is still a valid ESTA at the time of the application, it will be replaced and its validity will again be two full years.

ESTA costs

For an US ESTA, 14 US Dollar processing fee must be paid. The fees can be paid by credit card at the end of the online process. If the ESTA application is rejected, the system will still collect a fee of $4 from the total price, if the application is accepted and the ESTA approved, the full amount of $14 will be deducted. Submitting a new application also costs $14, so there is no reduction for subsequent applications. Group applications are also not subject to any price reductions.

ESTA application

The online application must be completed before an ESTA permit is granted. Here all kinds of questions are asked about the person and the personal circumstances. A detailed list of all questions can be found in the chapter ESTA application form. The request cannot be saved and processed later. In addition, users are logged out of the form if they are inactive for too long. A new application must then be completed.

The ESTA status check

Users can perform a status check of their ESTA via the official U. S. authority website. The following picture series shows how the status can be queried.

How to use the official ESTA status check

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USA ESTA Eligible Countries

Only certain countries and their citizens can participate in the Visa Waiver Program and apply for an ESTA. The following overview shows all countries that are currently members of the VWP.

The Visa Waiver Countries

Andorra Estonia Italy Monaco Slovenia
Australia Finland Japan Netherlands Spain
Austria France Republic of Korea New Zealand Sweden
Belgium Germany Latvia Norway Switzerland
Brunei Greece Liechtenstein Portugal Taiwan**
Chile Hungary Lithuania San Marino United Kingdom*
Czech Republic Iceland Luxembourg Singapore
Denmark Ireland Malta Slovakia

**With regard to Taiwan, it should be noted that applicants from Taiwan need a Taiwanese passport to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Considering the US-American One-China policy, Taiwanese citizens have special rights as Chinese citizens with Chinese passports cannot participate in the Visa Waiver Program.

*British citizens only with the full right of permanent residence in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man.

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USA ESTA Application Form

The following overview shows the steps of the ESTA application and the questions contained in each step. For each question, we have collected information to help you fill in the form faster and accurate. We hope that his will help you to prepare for your USA ESTA application.

Question Your answer Useful hint
Security Notification You have to confirm that you have read about and accept reduced privacy. This is a must. If you do not confirm, the application process will end.
General Disclaimer You have to confirm that you have read and understand the information and agree to the terms. Read through the text since it holds some important information however, you can also just agree and go on.
Promotional act of 2009 You have to confirm that you have read and understand the information and agree to the terms. This disclaimer is about the costs of ESTA. You will need PayPal or a valid credit card. The fee will be issued upon finishing the application.
Question Your answer Useful hint
Family Name Enter your family name as it appears on your passport. If your family name holds many special characters or includes several names, it is important to follow the instructions given by the tooltip(opens if you click the small question mark)) .
First (Given) Name Enter your first name(s) as they appear on your passport. The same applies as for family name.
Gender Choose between Male and Female.
Aliases If you are known by Aliases, choose yes and fill in the corresponding names. This question is regulary answered by persons that are known by stage names. You can add as many as you want.
Date of Birth Select your date of birth.
City of Birth Type in your ciry of birth. You can also enter “UNKNOWN” if you do not know the city.
Country of birth Select your contry of birth. You can find this information on your passport
Passport Number Enter your passport number exactly as it is displayed on your passport. This is one of the most important questions. Check the tooltip to make sure to enter the right number. Don’t mix up O and 0 as well as I and 1.
Country of Citizenship Select your country of citizenship. This information can be found on your passport.
National Identification Number Enter your national identification number as it appears on your ID card. This is only required for some countries. If you do not know where to find this number, enter “UNKNOWN”.
Issuance Date Select the date your passport was issued. This information can be found on your passport.
Issuing Country Select the country that issued your passport. This information can be found on your passport.
Personal Identification Number Enter your personal identification number exactly as it appears on the corresponding document. This is only required for some countries. If you do not know where to find this number, enter “UNKNOWN”.
Expiration Date Select the date your passport will expire. This information can be found on your passport.
Additional passports or national identity cards Answer with yes or no. If you answer with yes, fill in the required fields. You can add as many as you like. Please keep in mind that you will need some information about those additional documents so make sure you have everything you need.
Additional Citizenship/Nationality Answer with yes or no. If you answer with yes, fill in the required fields. You can add as many as you like. This question comes as a “are you right now” and “have you ever been” version. Make sure to distinguish both of them and answer the right one.
GE Membership Answer with yes or no. If you answer with yes, type in your Passid/Membership number. You can read more about the GE Membership at this website.
Parents Enter the fist and family names of your father and mother. If you do not know their names, you may also enter “UNKNOWN”.
Contact information Enter your address, city, region, country and one type of phone number as well as your email address. You can choose between “home”, “work”, “mobil” and “other” for phone number.
Social Media If you want to you can add information about your social media accounts. This is not needed. There is no information about if giving such information increases the chance of receiving an ESTA.
Employment Information If you have a current or previous employer, supply all requested information. You can fill in “UNKNOWN” in most of the fields if you do not know the answers.
Question Your answer Useful hint
Transit Indicate whether or not you are just bypassing the USA in transit or if you are planning to stay inside the U.S.. Depending on your answer, there will be either more or less questions left to answer however, in both cases you will need an ESTA.
U.S. Point of Contact Enter the required information about a person that could be contacted inside the U.S. regarding your trip. If you have more than one person, you can just take the information of one of them. Such a person could also be a hotel or company. If there are Questions to which you do not know the answer, you can type in “UNKNOWN” (if phone number is unknown, type in “0000”).
Address while in the U.S. Enter the required information about the place that you will visit during your trip. You can fill most of the fields with “UNKNOWN” in case you do not know the exact places yet. You can also just click “Same as U.S. point of contact” and fields will be filled automatically.
Emergency Contact Supply contact details of a person that can be contacted in case of emergency during your visit. You can enter “UNKNOWN” in most cases if you don’t have a person to contact however, it is strongly recommended to name one.
Question Your answer Useful hint
Eligibility Questions In general the questions should be answered with NO in order to be able to finish the application. if you have to answer a question with YES, you should contact your nearest U.S. embassy to find out about the best approach to receive a visa.
Waiver of Rights You have to confirm that all given data is correct and that you have answered everything withing the best possible knowledge and belief. You have to declare and agree, otherwise you will not be able to finish the application.
Third Parties only This field is only required if you are filling out an application on behalf of someone else. Check the box if you are filling out the application for someone else, if not, ignore it.

After you have answered all questions, you will need to confirm all details in the fifth step, the overview. Once this has been done, you can pay the processing fee using PayPal or a credit card. Congratulations! You have successfully submitted your ESTA application.
You can now use the ESTA Status Check to check the status of your application. Usually it is approved after a few minutes.

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ESTA group application

ESTA group applications

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) allows the submission of so-called application groups. This function can be useful, for example, if you as a whole family or a larger group travel together to the USA and need an ESTA for this purpose. Companies are also interested in using this function, as it allows you to check all applications at a glance. Another advantage of the ESTA group applications, they can be paid with a single payment. However, there are also some points that can cause problems when using group applications, so please read the US ESTA group application notes carefully before placing a bulk order.

Creating the Group and the Group ID

When an ESTA application group is created, a group ID is assigned. The creator of the group enters his or her personal data (first name, last name, surname, date of birth and email address) and clicks on the “continue” button. If necessary, a company name can also be entered here, which makes sense when applying for an ESTA group for several employees on a business trip.

Start of by visiting the US ESTA website and navigating to the group creation feature:

first step of creating an ESTA application group

Creating the Group and the ESTA Group ID

When an ESTA application group is created, a group ID is assigned. The creator of the group enters his or her personal data (first name, last name, surname, date of birth and email address) and clicks on the “continue” button. If necessary, a company name can also be entered here, which makes sense when applying for an ESTA group for several employees on a business trip.

Important: The owner/creator of an application group must be at least 18 years old.

second step of creating an ESTA application group

By creating the ESTA group, a so-called group ID is created. This group ID is of particular importance because without it, none of the applications contained in the group can be viewed later. You can also only check the status of an ESTA request (valid, expired, unpaid) using the Group ID.

third step of creating an ESTA application group

The Group Creator’s contact information and Group ID can now be used to access the Group Application Interface. If you need to interrupt the process of adding applications, you can always return to the user interface. To do this, you must check the status of the group and authenticate yourself using the contact data + group ID.

fourth step of creating an ESTA application group
fifth step of creating an ESTA application group

You can add a new ESTA request in the user interface by clicking “Add a new application”. You will then be able to complete a full ESTA application. At the end of the application, you will not be redirected to the payment process as usual, but you will return to the group overview. Now further requests can be added. If individual participants in the group have already completed a request and have not yet paid, these requests can also be added to the group. For this purpose, you only need the basic personal data of the respective person.

sixth step of creating an ESTA application group

The price for your ESTA Group is calculated on an ongoing basis. Once you have added all the applications to the group, you can pay the total price easily and comfortably by credit card or PayPal. Please keep in mind that the payment has a due date after which all unpaid applications will expire and are going to be deleted.

seventh step of creating an ESTA application group

Important: If you can trust the participants of the group with the group ID, it makes sense to distribute them among each other. This reduces the likelihood that the group ID will be lost and therefore access to all ESTA requests of the group will no longer be available.

ESTA / Visa Waiver Program Restrictions

If you would like to enter the USA and are allowed to participate in the Visa Waiver Program, you should inform yourself in advance whether your planned stay in the USA conforms to the rules of the US ESTA. It should be noted, for example, that travellers may only stay in the USA for a certain maximum duration. In addition to this time limit, there are a number of other things that must be taken into account during your stay as part of the Visa Waiver Program.

Important: Entering the United States as part of the Visa Waiver Program requires that you are staying in the United States for a limited period of time and have no intention of staying in the United States permanently. Avoid providing any information or activity related to such intentions when you are visiting the United States with an ESTA. If you intend to stay in the USA permanently, apply for an immigration visa and not for an USA ESTA!

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Children and the Visa Waiver Program

Family travelling to the U.S.Many travelers ask themselves if children need to apply for an US ESTA too. The answer is “Yes”. There is no such thing as a family group application that comes with reduced price. It is also not possible to include a child into the application of the responsible person. You need to start a brand-new application for each individual person, children included. Make sure that you check the box next to the question that is referring to persons filling out an application form on the behalf of someone else. Since you as a parent are filling out the application for your child, you are affected by this question and need to indicate it.

It is also very important that children also have their own, electronic passport to be able to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. Many countries do not issue personal, electronic passports to children but instead list their names within the passport of their parents or issue a so called “children passport”. Those documents are not eligible for being used to participate in the ESTA application. If you enter the passport number of such a document, the system will recognize it as not eligible and reject you from further steps of the application process. Therefore, it is very important that you make sure to have an electronic passport issued for each of the children travelling with you.
It is also important to note that an electronic passport should show a recent photo of the underaged person it was issued for. Make sure that the person is recognizable and if this is not the case, make sure to get a new passport issued that shows a recent photo.

Please also make sure that if you are travelling with kids that you do not have the parenthood for, it is important that you carry a document with you proving that you are allowed to travel with those underaged persons. The document should be signed by the parents of the underaged person and you should be able to present contact details that can be used to get the approval confirmed.

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Other U.S. Visa Types

In addition to the ESTA there are several other types of visas that allow entry to the USA. For example, nationals of non-VWP countries can apply for a B1/B2 visa to pursue tourism activities in the USA. There are also special visa categories for work stays, study visits and many other purposes. Basically, it can be said that no visa is as easy to apply for as ESTA, even for a B1/B2 visa, a personal interview in a U. S. embassy is necessary. The following table provides a basic overview of other visa types.

Type Purpose Application Process More information at
A-Visa Visa for diplomats or goverment officials Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
A-2 /NATO1-6 For military members of foreign countries staying inside the U.S. in capacity of their duties. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
B-Visa (B1/B2) B1 for Business, B2 for tourism visitors. Also for athletes competing for prize money. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
BCC Border Crossing Card for Mexicans Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
C-Visa Transit visa for citizens of countries that are not participating in the Visa Waiver Program Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
CW-1 Visa for employers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands who want to employ foreign workers Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
D-Visa Visa for crew members (aircraft or ship) Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
E-Visa Traders, Investors and professional specialists from Australia Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
ESTA / Visa Waiver Program Business and tourism visa for citizens of Countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. Online process Visit this website for more information.
F/M-Visa Students from foreign countries, intending to take up studies inside the U.S. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
G-Visa (G1/G5/NATO) Employee of certain international organisations like for example NATO Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
H-1B-Visa (H-1B/H-2B) For seasonal workers (H-2B) performing temporary work and for specialists that perform in fields that require highly specilized skills and knowledge (H-1B). Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
H-1B1-Visa For foreign workers from Chile and Singapore Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information about Chile and this website for more information about Singapore .
H-2A-Visa For workers that do temporary work inside the agricultural sector. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
H-3-Visa For individuals wanting to participate in training that is not primarily connected to employment. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
I-Visa For Journalists and media officials Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
J1-Visa Au pair, Student, Professor or scholar exchange. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
L-Visa For employees of a international company that are transfered internaly Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
O-Visa Visa for exceptional skilled individuals (regarding the topics: Science, Sports, Arts, Education and Business) Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
P-Visa (P1/P2/P3) For athleets, entertainers and artists that want to perform inside the U.S.. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
Q-Visa For international visitors acting in the capacity of official cultural exchange. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
R-Visa For religious workers intending to do temporary work inside the U.S. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
T-Visa For people who suffered under human trafficking. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
TN/TD-Visa For professional workers from Canada and Mexico (in the capacity of NAFTA) Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
U-Visa For people suffering as a victim of a crime. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
V-Visa For individuals who do not plan to immigrate into the U.S. and are spouse or children of a person having permanent resident status inside the U.S.. Manual process including U.S.-embassies Visit this website for more information.
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Visa Checker – Find out if you need an ESTA

To find out if you need an ESTA for the USA and your passport has been issued by a VWP country, use our Visa Checker. In the left field, select the country that issued your passport. You will find the relevant information on your passport.

Do I need an ESTA? Find out with the visawaiver.com Visa Checker!

Choose your country of citizenship

List of US Embassies

You can find a list of all US embassies on the following website of the American government. To do so, open the tab of the country where you are from.
Soon we would like to introduce our personal embassy finder with which you can find all important information about the nearest US Embassy with just a few clicks. Check back soon to use this useful feature.

ESTA / Visa Waiver Program FAQ

An USA ESTA is always valid for 24 Months (2 years). You can always apply for a new ESTA which will replace the previous one. The new validty will, again, be 24 months counted from the day of approval.

You will need a valid passport to answer questions like: Passport number, date of issue, date of expiry, country of citizenship. You will also need a valid credit card that can be charged to be able to pay the processing fee.

Yes! An ESTA is always bound to the passport that was used during the application process. At the same time, passportnumbers are individual and change with each new passport that is being issued. This means if you lose your passport, you need to apply for a new ESTA using your new passport.

You will need an ETA to be able to enter Canada via airplane. If you plan to visit Canada via car, make sure to take your passport as well as a confirmation of your ESTA with you. You will have to present documents when crossing the Canadian border.

No. An ESTA will automatically expire after two years of its issuance. You do not need to take any action in fact, a cancelation is not possible.

Yes. You will need an ESTA whenever you plan to enter the US by sea or air. If you plan to enter via land, you will not need an ESTA and the visa process will be decided by border police.

No. Each ESTA is bound to a passport which is bound to one single person. The USA ESTA is meant to supply information about each visitor. That being said, transferring an ESTA to an other person would not make any sense at all.

Yes you can do that however, you have to indicate that circumstance during the application process. You have to check a box declaring rules for third party persons applying on the behalf of someone else.

If your USA ESTA is approved, it will cost 14 US $. If the government rejects you, you will have to pay 4 US$.

This depends on the time it takes you to fill out the application form. After you have submitted the ESTA application, it normaly takes only a few minutes until you can check your confirmed status.

The best approach is to contact the nearest U.S. embassy and ask about how you should approach. In most cases, you are still able to apply for a B1/B2 visa. Please keep in mind that those visas take a lot more time to be issued.

This is uncertain but there is a high chance that it will get rejected. You will still be able to apply for a B1/B2 Visa if your application gets rejected. In general, the answer to this question highly depends on WHICH background question you had to answer with “Yes” since there are more vital and less vital ones.

Unless you are able to get help from someone with either a valid credit card or PayPal account you won’t be able to apply for an ESTA.

No. In almost every case your ESTA status will be checked by using your passport before boarding your flight. This way, you will be rejected from boarding if you do now own a valid US ESTA.

You can either select “I know the application number” or “I do not know the application number” inside the status check interface. Depending on your  choice, you just have to answer more or less questions to be able to check your status however, you do not need your application number.

Helpfull links regarding ESTA and Visa Waiver Program

Looking for an embassy?

You need to apply for B1/B2 or need help in general?

Check out this website!

Official US government website, listing all embassies

Want to apply for ESTA?

You need an ESTA? This is where you can apply for it!

Check out this website!

Official website to apply for US ESTA

Want to immigrate to the U.S.?

You want to work and live inside the USA?

Check out this website!

Official US government website with information regarding immigration

Want to learn about US entry rules?

You want to learn something about US border protection?

Check out this website!

Official website of U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Summary of the process of taking part in the Visa Waiver Program and applying for an US ESTA