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Allow us to introduce our ultimate guide to ESTA USA – the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. We will take you through each step of the ESTA application one by one. Our guide points out pitfalls and helpful facts. Reading through our guide will take you 15 minutes of your precious time but in return, you will know exactly how to handle the ESTA application.

You are already familiar with ESTA USA or have already submitted an application and a more specific question?

skip ESTA application guide and find your question using our FAQ

Lets start with the guide to your USA ESTA. First of all we need to answer the most important question:

Do You need an ESTA?

You can answer this question with our ESTA in a Nutshell infographics within a few moments.

Do i need an ESTA for USA? Find out using this info graphic

What you will need to successfully submit your application

Now that you have checked your eligibility, you are ready to start with the USA ESTA application process. But first, you should make sure that you have all needed documents ready at hand.

  • Valid passport (copy of passport saved on your hard disk can be useful, so prepare one if you can)
  • Working credit card with enough balance to pay 14$ USD processing fee
  • Travel date
  • Address of a place where you will stay during your trip
  • Address of a place of contact inside the U.S.
  • Email address with mailbox to which you have full access

When you have prepared everything, you are good to go.

Start a new ESTA USA application

Let’s start with the first step of our USA ESTA guide, starting a new application through the website of US Customs and Border Protection at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

The process is very straight forward. You can start a new application by clicking on the big blue button “NEW APPLICATION” which takes you a bit further down the page and asks you if you want to start a single or group application.
Since in this guide we do only want to apply for a single visa for an individual person, click “INDIVIDUAL APPLICATION

A popup will appear, asking you to confirm the security notification of the ESTA USA system. Since the text is quite long and since you won’t be able to proceed with your application without clicking “CONFIRM & CONTINUE” anyway, we will summarize it for you:

A lot of disclaimers and privacy policies that leave you no choice – that’s a tough start isn’t it?

DHS (Department of Homeland Security) informs you that when entering the ESTA application form, all entered data and your behaving in general while visiting the website will be monitored. The most important sentence in this is “There is no expectation of privacy when you use this computer system” which sums it up clear and simple. You can stop the application process by clicking “CANCEL & EDIT” however, this means you won’t be able to apply for an ESTA. You alternative is a tourist visa (B1) which will require you to take part in a complex application process including personal interviews. Important: Your data being shared within the process of a regular tourist visa application will still be shared with DHS and other US authorities.

Our opinion: Since the whole ESTA process is about security checking foreign visitors, it is logical that all data is being stored and monitored. This includes checking your IP address. Since there is no real way around it anyway, we suggest that you confirm and accept DHS’s privacy note and proceed with your application.

After confirming, you are redirected to the first page of the ESTA application form. There is still some bureaucracy to be dealt with. First disclaimer’s content can be summarized the following way:

All data that is being entered into the ESTA USA application form will be manually and automatically checked (also by using law enforcement databases). The decision about your approval or rejection will be based on the provided data. A rejection does not mean that you won’t be able to travel to the U.S. however, you will need to apply for a regular visa. An approval does not necessarily mean that you will be allowed to enter the U.S. border police can still reject you during passport check. You also agree to not break certain rules that are applied while traveling under the Visa Waiver Program (Take a look at the paragraph after “WARNING”).

Declare that you have read and understood the disclaimer by checking “Yes, I have read and understand the information and agree to these terms”.
A second disclaimer will pop up displaying information about the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. This disclaimer is mainly about the fee that will be collected during your application process. If you check “Yes, I have read and understand the information and agree to these terms.” You agree to the following conditions:

• You will be charged 14$ USD in case your application gets approved
• You will be charged 4$ USD in case your application is being rejected
• Your ESTA for USA will be declined (even if it was approved before) if your payment is being charged back (due to insufficient funds or because of you performing a chargeback).
• Your ESTA processing fee will never be fully refunded by CBP (Customs and Border Protection)
After agreeing to this second disclaimer, click “NEXT” to proceed to the application form starting with the first section “Applicant Information”.

Important: Most form fields  accept UNKNOWN as a placeholder in case an applicant does not know the answer to the corresponding question. Make sure to use it whenever you do not know how to answer a required question. Unknown is also available as option within some of the dropdown selectors built into the form.

ESTA application form section 1: Applicant information

ESTA USA application form section 1: Applicant information

You need to provide your full family name. In case you have several names, enter those that are displayed inside the machine readable part of your passport. If your name contains special characters or umlauts, also check how your name is written inside the machine readable part and enter it into the text field using the exact same spelling.

Same as family name. Always take your passport’s machine readable part as reference.

Choose your gender. Currently it is not possible to enter something else than “Male” or “Female”. If both does not apply, choose the term that you feel more comfortable with or check your passport for reference. You will have the possibility to explain when being checked at the airport.

If you are known by any other names, list them inside the alias fields. You do not have to note your maidens name.

Enter your date of birth. If you do not know your date of birth, take the one that is noted on your passport.

Enter your city of birth. If you do not know where you were born, enter UNKNOWN.

Enter your country of birth.

ESTA application form section 2: Passport information

ESTA USA application form section 2: Passport information

Enter your passport number. Take the machine readable part of your passport as reference. The passport number is displayed within the machine readable number as well as on top of your passport data page. Double check your passport number. Your ESTA, once approved, will be linked to your passport number. If you mistype this number during your application process, your ESTA will not be linked properly and you could get in trouble during border control.

Enter the date of issuance of your passport.

Enter the expiry date of your passport.

Enter the country of your citizenship. This can be found on your passport.

Enter the country that issued your passport. The issuing country is the same as the country of citizenship. Don’t get confused if you received your passport while staying in a foreign country. In such cases, passports are issued by the embassy or consulate located in the foreign country. If you receive your UK passport from the UK embassy in India, the passport is still considered as issued by United Kingdom.

Enter your national identification number. This number is only issued by a few countries and can be found on your national ID card. If you do not have a national ID but the corresponding text field is required for your citizenship, enter UNKNOWN.

Same applies as for national identification number. If you do not know your personal identification number, enter UNKNOWN.

You will be asked if you are in the possession of additional passports. If so, select “YES” and answer the following questions.

Which country issued your additional passport.

Describe the type of document. Is it a passport or a national id card?

Enter the number of your document. In the case of a passport, this could be the passport number, in the case of an ID card, this could be a national identification number.

Indicate when the additional travel document will expire.

CBP has implemented a nice little feature that allows applicants to fill in personal and passport data a lot easier. All you have to do is click the big blue button reading “Upload your passport”

Learn how to use passport upload feature

ESTA application form section 3: Other citizenship / Nationality

ESTA USA application form section 3: Other citizenship / Nationality

If your answer is “yes”, you will have to provide more information on your additional documents.

For which country do you hold an additional travel document? Select the appropriate country.

Indicate how you were able to require that additional citizenship.

This question is not only about current additional citizenships but also about additional citizenships that you held in the past.

Indicate which additional citizenship you have owned in the past.

ESTA application form section 4: GE membership

ESTA USA application form section 4: GE membership

The CBP Global Entry Program allows approved applicants to pass passport control a lot faster by performing a so called “fast check-in”. They will not be questioned or controlled by border police but can instead bypass passport control by using their PASSID / membership card at the CBP check-in terminal.

You can find this number on your CBP membership card.

ESTA application form section 5: Parents

ESTA USA application form section 5: Parents

Enter the family name of your father and mother (take the current family names, not their maiden names) if you do not know them, enter UNKNOWN.

Enter the first (given) names of your father and mother. If you do not know them, enter UNKNOWN.

ESTA application form section 6: Your contact information

ESTA USA application form section 6: Your contact information

Enter your street and house / civic number.

Enter your address extension if you can supply one.

Enter your apartment number if you can supply one.

Enter the city of your permanent residence.

Enter the state of your permanent residence.

Enter the country of your permanent residence.

Choose the type of phone number you wish to provide as contact number.

Choose the matching country code (country dial code) and enter your phone number.

Enter your E-mail Address. Make sure that you have unlimited access to this mailbox, also check the spam folder for messages from CBP. You will not receive a confirmation mail in case of an approved ESTA however, you will receive reminder as soon as your ESTA is about to expire.

Re-enter your E-Mail Address. This is for verification reasons.

It might happen that your ESTA application does not accept your phone number and / or address. This is due to the attempt of CBP to validate certain data. It can be very frustrating trying to edit the data to get it accepted by the application form however, there is a little trick that allows you to bypass this (sometimes very unpleasent) feature of the ESTA application form

How to bypass ESTA application validation for address and phone number

ESTA application form section 7: Social Media (optional)

ESTA USA application form section 7: Social Media (optional)

Choose the provider of your social media account (Facebook, Instagram etc.)

Provide the username under which you can be found using the search tool of your social media platform.

If you wish to, you can provide information about your social media appearance however, this is not required and considering your data privacy, our advice is: don’t provide any data.

ESTA application form section 8: Employment information

ESTA USA application form section 8: Employment information

You must indicate whether or not you are employed at the moment or if you were employed in the past. CBP is especially interested in this information because it gives a good impression about if you intend to take up work inside the U.S. (which of course is forbidden).

What is the title of your job? Examples could be: Dentist, Teacher, Programmer

Provide information about your employer. What’s the name of the company you are working for?

Enter the address of your employer (address of the company).

Enter an address extension if there is one available.

Enter the city where your employer’s business is located.

Enter the state / province / region where your employer’s business is located.

Enter the country where your employer’s business is located.

Provide a phone number of your employer.

ESTA application form section 9: Enter Travel Information

ESTA USA application form section 9: Enter Travel Information

If you answer this question with “yes”, the application form will be reduced by 2 questions that ask for your point of contact inside the U.S. as well as for the place where you will stay. If you are passing by on transit during your first visit but intent to stay inside the U.S. during a later trip, you can still answer this question with “yes”.

If you have indicated that your travel is not occurring in transit to another country, you will have to provide information about your point of contact inside the U.S. If you do not have a point of contact, you can either enter “UNKNOWN” or enter information related to the first hotel / accommodation where you will stay.

ESTA application form section 10: U.S. point of contact information

ESTA USA application form section 10: U.S. point of contact information

Enter the name of your contact person, this can also be a company name.

Enter the address (street and civic number) of your point of contact.

Enter an address extension if you can provide one.

Enter an apartment number if you can provide one.

Enter the city of your point of contact.

Enter the state of your point of contact. If you do not know the state, select “UNKNOWN”

Enter the phone number of your point of contact. If you do not know the phone number, enter “0000”

If you have indicated that your travel is not occurring in transit to another country, you will have to provide information about your point of contact inside the U.S. If you do not have a point of contact, you can either enter “UNKNOWN” or enter information related to the first hotel / accommodation where you will stay.

ESTA application form section 11: Address while in the U.S.

ESTA USA application form section 11: Address while in the U.S.

If you check this handy little box, it will fill out all fields of section 9 with the exact same data that you have used for your point of contact (including “0000” and “UNKNOWN” if used)

Enter the address (street and civic number) of your address while in the U.S.

Enter an address extension if you can provide one.

Enter an apartment number if you can provide one.

Enter the city of your address while in the U.S.

Enter the state of your address while in the U.S. If you do not know the state, you can select “UNKNOWN”

You will have to provide information about your address while staying inside the U.S. If you do not have an address, you can either enter “UNKNOWN” or enter information related to the first hotel / accommodation where you will stay.

ESTA application form section 12: Emergency contact information in or out of the U.S.

ESTA USA application form section 12: Emergency contact information in or out of the U.S.

Enter the family name of a person that should be contacted in case of an emergency during your trip to the U.S.

Enter the first (given) name of that person.

Enter an E-mail address under which that person can be reached.

Enter a phone number under which that person can be reached.

ESTA application form section 13: Eligibility questions

This final part of your ESTA application is about very sensitive information. Please know that you should answer all question with “no” in order to get an approved ESTA status however, the questions must be answered truthfully at the same time. If your answer to one of the following questions is “yes”, you should contact CBP or the nearest U.S. embassy / consulate, explain your case and kindly ask about how to proceed. Be honest and correct about eligibility questions. In most cases, CBP will be able to determine whether you answered truthfully. Knowingly lying about an eligibility question can lead to a permanent travel ban.

Do you have a physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict; or do you currently have any of the following diseases (communicable diseases are specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act):

Cholera

Diphtheria

Tuberculosis, infectious

Plague

Smallpox

Yellow Fever

Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Crimean-Congo

Severe acute respiratory illnesses capable of transmission to other persons and likely to cause mortality.

Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?

Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?

Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?

Have you ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States?

Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or were you previously employed in the United States without prior permission from the U.S. government?

Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?

Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the admission period granted to you by the U.S. government?

Have you traveled to, or been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011?

ESTA application started with disclaimers, it ends with them as well

Now that we have answered all questions we are almost finished with the application process. All that is left is agreeing to some more disclaimers as well as paying the processing fee of 14$ USD.
First agreement is related to the “Waiver of Rights”. You must certify that all information provided by you during the application process is true and correct.

The second agreement is optional and must only be checked by third party services that apply for someone else. This also includes individuals applying on the behalf of family members or friends. Even if an application was submitted by a third party, the applicant is still responsible for it as well as for the validity of all provided information.

It is time to review our ESTA application

Now it is time to review the whole application once again. Make sure to double check crucial data. Here is a list of what should be considered as crucial:

  • Your full name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your citizenship /nationality
  • Your passport details
  • Your Contact details (especially your E-mail Address)

Most of this data is being checked during passport / border control using your passport. If there are any discrepancies between the data of your USA ESTA application and the data of your passport, things could get troublesome. Don’t expect border police to discuss the subject. Since U.S. immigration rules are comparable tough, there is a higher chance of being seated in the next flight back home than successfully persuading border police staff.

Confirm your data by clicking “Confirm & Continue” four times for all four sections of your application form and finish the review process by entering some of your personal data once again:

  • Passport Number
  • Issuing Country
  • Family Name
  • Date of Birth

The USA ESTA application payment

After successfully validating your data, you will be redirected to the status check page of your ESTA application. Your application will not be reviewed until you successfully paid the processing fee. From time of submitting your application to status check page, you will have 7 days to pay the fee. If you do not pay within these 7 days, your application will expire and you will have to fill out a new application.

To pay the processing fee, check the disclaimer box and click on “Pay now”. Select the payment method and click “proceed“.

ESTA USA payment

During the payment checkout you will have to provide the following billing details:

  • Country
  • Billing Address
  • Billing Address 2 (optional)
  • City
  • State/Province
  • ZIP/Postal Code
  • Account Holder Name
  • Card Number
  • Expiration Date
  • Card Security Code

Important: Once you execute the payment by clicking on “submit payment”, there will be a loading sequence notifying you about the processing of payment. DO NOT navigate forth or back using your mouse or browser navigation. Do also not refresh the site by typing f5 or the refresh button of your browser.

The payment sequence can take up to 30 seconds and should not be interrupted. Once the payment sequence is finished, you will be redirected back to the status check overview. Your application will now show “pending” status. Usually your status will change to “approved” within a few minutes. You can either hit f5 every now and then to refresh the page or come back later to check if your status has changed.

How do I check if my ESTA for USA was approved?

If your application was pending for a longer time and you got disconnected from status check page, you can get back by performing a regular status check. To do this, follow our ESTA status check description:

Once the ESTA status check page shows approved status for your ESTA, you should print out a copy of the approval and take it with you when heading out to the U.S.

ESTA USA print out

We discussed the ESTA application in detail and by now you should know how to fill out your own application however, there is a lot more to know about ESTA. Since ESTA is being used by millions of people every year, a lot of specific questions have popped up since ESTA for USA was established. Our ESTA USA FAQ covers a lot of these questions and it is being extended frequently. If you have a quesion that is not yet covered by our FAQ, feel free to submit it to us using contact@visawaiver.com We will try to answer the question and add it to our FAQ.

ESTA USA FAQ