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All you need to know about the ESTA Application Form

If you plan to apply for an US ESTA, this is what you need to know

ESTA (short for Electronic System of Travel Authorization) is the official tourism and business visa for citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (short: VWP). It is an easy online application that can be filled out within a few minutes. There is no need to visit an US embassy or to get a stamp into the passport of the applicant.

The USA ESTA was established in 2008 and was introduced to simplify and unify the process of visa issuing for Visa Waiver countries. The Visa Waiver Program itself was started a few years earlier and was meant to allow easier entrance to citizens from certain countries. While it is not 100% clear which criteria was used to decide if a country can join the Visa Waiver Program or not however, it is very likely that the US authorities chose countries that can be described as political and economical stable and which have good relations to the US. All citizens of so called “VWP countries” can participate in the program and apply for an ESTA, non VWP countries and visa free countries. There are two other kind of groups regarding visa policies. Citizens of those countries which are not part of the Visa Waiver Program need to apply for regular visa. All citizens from the US as well as Canada do not need a visa at all to be able to enter the US.

How USA ESTA works in general

The US ESTA process can be completed 100% online. Users will have to supply their passport number during the process and answer questions about their person. After the user has paid the process fee, the ESTA status can be checked on the official website of the government authority. The decision is available within a few minutes. There are three possible replies to an US ESTA request. The government system will either tell the user that his visa application got approved, that it is pending while under further review or that it was rejected.
If the visa got approved, users can travel to the United States without having to deal with any additional authority appointments. The passport of the travelling person will be checked before boarding the flight and the US ESTA system will check if there is a valid ESTA connected to the passport. This is why it is crucial to keep the passport that was used to apply for the USA ESTA with you during your trip to the US. The passport may be checked again when arriving at the American airport. In addition, travelers have to fill out a questioning form during their flight to the US.

It is important to note that an approved ESTA does not guarantee an entry permit into the United States. Border authorities can still decide to reject you if they think it is needed. If this happens, you will have to take the flight back to your departing country. To increase the chances of entry permission, always follow the directives of authority persons.

Eligible for ESTA – the Visa Waiver Countries

Individuals who own a passport and citizenship of a VWP country can apply for an ESTA. It is very important to distinguish between a country that issued a passport and the nationality /citizenship of the passport holder. To give an example: It is possible that a person from Syria lives in Germany and that German authorities issued a travel document for this person. While the issuing country of this document would be Germany, the holder still doesn’t own German citizenship. Therefore, he would not be able to apply for an ESTA.

The full list of countries that take part in the US Visa Waiver Program and which citizens can apply for an ESTA can be found beneath:

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

You can also check our Visa Checker to see if your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program and if you can apply for an USA ESTA

Choose your country of citizenship

How to start your ESTA application

To start your very own ESTA application, follow the following three easy steps.
Navigate to the official website of the US government. There are also websites and companies that offer the service of applying on your behalf. Please know that you will still need to answer all the questions that are asked within the official ESTA form. There is no way of bypassing those questions. You will also have to pay for the processing fee of your ESTA. It is most certain that this fee will be higher if you choose a service provider. You have to decide on your own if a provider is trustable and if the service he offers is worth the money.

After you have navigate to the official Website, complete the following steps:

Preparations for filling out your ESTA application form

There are several questions that might require some preparation from your side. While most of the questions are connected to data and information that you will know straight away, there are some questions which might require research. Those questions are connected to your employment as well as to your point of contacts inside the US. During the ESTA application, you will be asked for your current employment status. If you are employed, you will have to answer questions regarding your employer. Name of the company, starting year of your employment contract, address and contact details of the company. Many people do not memorize this information so make sure you have it ready when starting your ESTA application. You will also need to supply some information regarding your point of contact inside the US as well as about the location that you will visit during your trip. For those questions, you will need some contact details as well. Make sure to have some phone numbers and email addresses of people or organizations you plan to visit during your trip. This could also be the contact details of your hotel. In case you do not have any of the required information, it is important to know that you can also fill in “UNKNOWN” for most of the questions. If this affects the likelihood of approval or rejection of your application is uncertain. If you have access to the needed information, we suggest you supply it.

Also make sure to have your passport and credit card ready as you will need both of them during the application process. If you have prepared as suggested, you will be finished with your application in no time.

Documents needed for your ESTA application

You will need a valid credit card as well as a valid passport with at least 6 months validity left until expiration. As described in the article above, it is recommended to gather some information before starting the application form. This is mainly due to the fact that the USA ESTA application process has a certain time limit after which the application form will expire and you have to start all over again.
If you are filling out applications for third parties (e.g. your family members, colleagues or friends) you will need their passports too. Make sure you have everything you need before starting the application process. As far as the payment goes it is good to know that you have 7 days until your application will expire if still unpaid. This means even if you do not have a credit card by the time of filling out the application form, you can still come back later and pay for it.

If you intend to pay later for your application, please make sure to note down your application number before you do so. The application number is needed to come back later and if you lose it, you will most likely need to start a whole new application.

Estimated amount of time an ESTA application will take you

This depends on your preparations. If all needed information is available to you during the application process, the USA ESTA application form can be filled out within 10 minutes or less. There are some questions however, that can cause the whole process to take a bit longer. In general it can be said that including the time it takes to check the status after a successful submission of your application, the whole process from starting the application form to retrieving the information about whether you’ve been granted an ESTA or not takes about 15 minutes. This is why an US ESTA can also be issued while already at the airport (which is not recommended since its always possible that your application will be either rejected or investigated further which will increase the time until you receive confirmation).

To be save, it makes sense to start your ESTA application with enough time to A: Don’t have to panic if the government needs more time to decide about your application and B: Not be under the influence of high stress which could result in supplying false information or risking typos during the answering of important questions like passport number.

The ESTA application form in detail

We have collected all questions that are asked during the ESTA application and added some information about how to answer them as well as some useful hints. You can use the Overview beneath to check out what questions you are going to be asked during the process.

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.

Costs of an US ESTA application

The costs of an USA ESTA depends on whether you get approved or rejected. During payment you are going to pay a total of 14 US $ processing fee. This amount is going to be blocked on either your PayPal account or credit card. In the following process, the government authority checks if your application can be approved or not. If your application is approved, the full amount is charged on your account or credit card. If, for any reason, your application gets rejected, the system only charges 4 $ processing fee and lets you keep 10 $ of the total amount. It is important to note that there will be no real invoice issued for the processing fee however, you can log into your application by checking its status and just print the whole page as it shows the date and number of the transaction as well as the charged amount.

ESTA application approved


ESTA application rejected


How to check if your ESTA application got approved

After your application was submitted and payment was successfully processed, you can check your status using the official website. There you will see if your application got approved, rejected or if decision upon your application is still pending. If your status shows “pending” you should check back within the next few hours to see how the authority decided.

Important: There are no emails send by the government authority. The only way to check your status and get confirmation on your approval or rejection is the official ESTA status check. Don’t wait for any Email!

Change data inside your ESTA application after submission

It is possible to change some of the information you entered into your ESTA application however, this is not so easy. First of all, the only data that can be changed is the place where you are going to stay during your visit. Important information like: passport number, date of birth, date of issue and expiry of your passport and other things can’t be edited after successful submission. If you notice that you have entered wrong information into your ESTA application, there is no other way then starting a new application. This new application will, again, cost you the same amount of money as every other application so make sure to always double check your data. Just before you enter the payment step, you will have the chance to review all of your data.