Frequently Asked Questions: ESTA
General Information on the Visa Waiver Program
Under what circumstances can I use the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. In order to use the VWP as of January 12, 2009 you need to get ESTA travel authorization. If you are traveling to the U.S. for purposes other than tourism or business, such as to work or study in the U.S., you need a visa and you are not eligible to use the VWP or ESTA.
Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program?
Citizens or nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP:
The following countries have been added as a member of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
- the Netherlands
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
- Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Republic of Korea and the Slovak Republic (As of November 17, 2008);
- Malta (As of December 30, 2008);
- Greece (As of April 5, 2010)
Eligible citizens or nationals from these new VWP countries may now travel to the United States under the VWP provided they have an e-passport and an approved authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
I will transit the U.S. on my way to a third country. Do I still need ESTA travel authorization?
Yes. If you are transiting without a visa, you are utilizing the VWP and therefore must have ESTA travel authorization as of January 12, 2009.
Can I enter the U.S. if I have ESTA travel authorization?
ESTA travel authorization does not guarantee you entry into the U.S. CBP officers reserve the right to deny entry to any traveler.
Who Needs to Apply for ESTA
Who is required to apply for an electronic travel authorization via ESTA?
Effective Jan. 12, 2009, citizens or nationals from all VWP countries are required to obtain an approved travel authorization via ESTA in order to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP. Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, are required to obtain an independent ESTA approval.
NEW I just received a notice that my ESTA has expired, what should I do?
Your ESTA authorization is valid for 2 years from the date you receive authorization. If your ESTA expires, it is not necessary to reapply until you are ready to travel to the US again. Please plan to apply at least 72 hours before you travel to allow time for ESTA processing. Every time you receive new ESTA, you will be charged the fee of $14 USD
Can a person other than the traveler apply for ESTA travel authorization on the traveler’s behalf?
Yes. Another individual may apply for ESTA travel authorization on the traveler’s behalf so long as he or she knows the traveler's information. The person filling out the ESTA form must provide (in English) biographical data on the traveler including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as travel information such as the flight number and destination address in the U.S. The person filling out the online form will also be required to answer eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, and past history of visa revocation or deportation, among others.
What happens if a VWP traveler flies to the United States after ESTA is mandatory, but somehow does not have an ESTA?
ESTA is now mandatory, all nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP require an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. Travelers who have not received ESTA approval by the mandatory compliance date may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.
How to Apply for ESTA
My passport was issued overseas. How should I answer the question "Passport Issuing Country"?
Please choose the country of your nationality, not the physical location where the passport was issued. For example, if you have a Japanese passport issued in the US., choose Japan.
Can a VWP traveler with more than one passport travel to the United States on the passport that was not used when applying for an ESTA?
No. Each VWP traveler must have an approved ESTA for the passport he or she plans to use for travel to the United States. If a traveler acquires a new passport, he or she must submit a new ESTA application for their new passport.
How far in advance of my trip do I need to apply for travel authorization?
Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. We recommend that travel authorization applications be submitted as early as possible, as soon as travel is planned. DHS realizes that not all travel is planned in advance, and applications for last-minute or emergency travel will be accommodated.
How much time does it take for ESTA travel authorization to process my approval?
ESTA will provide almost immediate determinations of eligibility for travel under the VWP. There are three types of responses: Authorization Approved, Authorization Pending, and Travel Not Authorized. Those applicants who receive an approval are then authorized to travel to the U.S. under the VWP. Applicants whose ESTA Applicants are denied will be referred to www.travel.state.gov for information on how to apply for a visa to travel to the U.S. Applicants who receive an Authorization Pending response will need to check the website for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.
There are Web sites that charge more than ESTA fee for information about ESTA or to apply for an ESTA on behalf of VWP travelers. Is there any benefit to utilizing one of these services?
No. The U.S. government maintains a Web site where visitors seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can apply directly for travel authorization via ESTA. [https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov]. The ESTA application Web site is available in multiple languages and includes a help section that provides additional information for VWP travelers to guide them through the application process.
Can prospective travelers apply for an ESTA without specific travel plans if they want to be able to travel to the United States later on short notice?
Yes. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA. VWP travelers are not required to complete the travel itinerary and destination details before submitting an ESTA application. If a traveler’s destination address in the United States is unknown when he or she completes the ESTA application, the traveler may enter the name of the hotel or approximate location he or she intends to visit. Travelers may update this information when their plans are finalized, but they will not be required to update their destination addresses or itineraries should they change after their ESTA has been approved. DHS recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as early as possible, as soon as, or even before travel is planned. ESTA will accept applications from last minute and emergency travelers – those VWP travelers that arrive at the airport without an approved ESTA.
Do VWP travelers need to bring a paper printout of their ESTA approval to the airport?
No. However, DHS recommends that travelers print out the ESTA application response in order to maintain a record of their ESTA application number and to have confirmation of their ESTA status.
Updating Your ESTA Registration
Do I ever need to reapply for travel authorization through the ESTA?
Yes, there are instances when a new travel authorization via ESTA would be required. If you have acquired a new passport or have had a change in name, gender, or citizenship, or if the answers to any of the "yes or no" ESTA questions have changed, a new application must be submitted. Also, once the travel authorization expires, a new travel authorization via ESTA is required.
What if my destination addresses or itineraries changes after I obtain ESTA travel authorization?
Applicants may update their destination addresses or itineraries should they change after their ESTA has been approved, although this will not be required.
I forgot my ESTA applicaiton number. How can I log back into the sytem to update my information or check my application status? (NEW)
Is a traveler loses, forgets, or does not have access to his or her applciation number or travel status, he or she may retrieve the applciation number, beginning September 8, 2010, through the ESTA website by entering the applicants name, date of birth, passport number and passport issuing country.
Do travelers need to update their ESTA if it will expire before the traveler departs the U.S.?
If an ESTA expires before the traveler leaves the United States, the traveler is not required to apply for another ESTA. However, the traveler will need to apply for a new ESTA for future travel.
ESTA and U.S. Visas
Is the ESTA travel authorization a visa?
No.The ESTA travel authorization is not a visa and travelers who are required to have a visa still must have one.
I have a U.S. visa. Do I need ESTA travel authorization?
You do not need to apply for ESTA if you possess a valid visa and will travel to the U.S. on that visa for the purpose it was issued.
I was denied ESTA travel authorization. Is it possible for me to be admitted entry to the U.S.?
If you have been denied ESTA travel authorization, you may still be eligible to travel to the U.S. by applying for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulates. Please see http://www.ustraveldocs.com/jp for information on how to apply for a visa.
Should a traveler not approved for travel through ESTA reapply?
Unless the circumstances have changed, the traveler will not qualify for an ESTA and will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Mistakes made in answering the VWP eligibility questions MAY be corrected by contacting the CBP Customer Service Center at 1-877-227-5511 depending on what question teh mistake was made. In addition, reapplying with false information for the purposes of qualifying for an ESTA could make the traveler ineligible for the U.S. travel.
How can a traveler find out the reason an ESTA application was denied?
DHS has carefully developed the ESTA program to ensure that only those individuals who are ineligible to travel to the United States under the VWP or those whose travel would pose a law enforcement or security risk are refused an ESTA. While the ESTA Web site provides a link to the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) Web site, there are no guarantees that a request for redress through DHS TRIP will resolve the VWP ineligibility that caused an applicant’s ESTA application to be denied.
Please note that Embassies and Consulates are not able to provide details about ESTA denials or resolve the issue that caused the ESTA denial. Embassies and Consulates are able to process an application for a non-immigrant visa, which, if approved, will be the only way that a traveler whose ESTA application has been denied will be authorized to travel to the U.S.
If a traveler was denied ESTA approval and needs to travel immediately, is it possible to get an emergency visa appointment at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate?
Unfortunately, the Department of State is unable to guarantee next-day appointments because of varying demand for visas. As a result, we encourage travelers to apply for an ESTA approval far in advance of the proposed travel. Information about the appointment process is available here.
Visa Waiver Program Eligibility Questions
I applied for a F-1 visa and was told to send other document. The officer gave me the Notice of Temporarily Refused Visa Application (221g letter), and it says that I was refused. Can’t I travel to the U.S. with visa free?
If you were 221g’ed and need to go the U.S. for tourism while the application is pending, you have to check “yes” to the ESTA question of “Have you ever denied a U.S. visa or entry into the U.S. or had a U.S. visa canceled?” If your ESTA is denied, you need to apply for a visa. We recommend that you do NOT plan to travel VWP while you have a visa application pending with us, as doing so may jeopardize your ability to travel VWP in the future. However, once your 221g’ed visa is issued after you submit the necessary document, your refusal will be overcome and you no longer need to check “yes” to the ESTA question. You can travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
What if I already have the ESTA Authorization before I apply for a visa? Do I have to apply for ESTA again?
If you have a valid ESTA Authorization, you do not need to apply for a new one while your case is pending. However, we recommend you travel after you receive your visa.
When would I check the box "yes" for the portion of question "A" that asks: "Do you have a communicable disease?
Only answer yes if one of the following applies:
- Granuloma inguinale
- Leprosy, infectious
- Lymphogranuloma venereum
- Syphilis, infectious stage
- Tuberculosis, active
- And others as determined by teh Department of Health and Human Services.
When would I check the box "yes" for the portion of question "A" that asks about a physical or mental disorder?
Answer "yes" if you:
- have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose or has posed a threat to the property, safety or welfare of the individual or others; or
- have had a physical or mental disorder and a history or behavior associated with the disorder that has posed a threat to the property, safety or welfare of the individual or others and which behavior is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior.
Answer "No" if:
- You currently have no physical or mental disorders; or
- You have or had a physical or mental disorder without associated behavior that may pose or has posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
- You currently have a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior, but that behavior has not posed, does not currently pose nor will pose a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
- You had a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior that posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others, but that behavior is unlikely to recur.
When would I check the box "Yes" for the portion of question "B" that asks: Have you ever been arrested or convicted for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude?
A crime involving moral turpitude is an offense that is inherently base, vile, or depraved and contrary to the accepted rules of society and the duties owed between persons or to society generally. Some examples of crimes involving moral turpitude include, but are not limited to, murder, rape, sexual offenses, crimes against children, prostitution, robbery, theft, fraud and crimes of violence.
When would I check the box "Yes" for question "G" that asks: Have you ever asserted immunity from prosecution?
Answer "Yes" to this question if:
- while in the United States, you committed a felony, crime of violence, or reckless driving or driving while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs or alcohol involving personal injury to another person;
- you received immunity from prosecution;
- you departed the United States as a result of committing the offense and receiving immunity; and
- you have not subsequently been prosecuted for that offense.
Is there a fee for a travel authorization?
Yes, beginning September 8, 2010, there is a fee required by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. The fee is comprised of two parts:
- Processing Charge -- All applicants requesting an electronic travel authorization are charged for the processing of the application. The fee is $4.00.
- Authorization charge -- If your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, an additional $10.00 will be charged to your credit card. If your electronic travel authorization is denied, you are only charged for the processing of your application.
We are not responsible for any additional fees that may be charged by your credit card company for the transaction.
How do I pay for my travel authorization?
All payment for electronic travel authorization applications must be made by credit card or debit card. The ESTA system currently accepts only MasterCard, VISA, American Express and Discover cards including JCB (You may enter JCB card information after you click on Discover Icon). Payments can also be made with a debit card that holds the VISA or MasterCard symbol. DHS is continuing to explore other payment measures for the future. Your application will not be submitted for processing until all payment information is received.
If I'm already registered in ESTA, will I need to re-register and pay a fee after September 8, 2010?
No. The fee will only be required for new registrations on or after September 8, 2010. Travelers who renew their ESTA after September 8, 2010 will need to pay the same fees for a renewal.
I applied for ESTA on 8/3/2009 and valid until 8/3/2011. If I reapply for ESTA before September 8 (with the same information), will my expiration be extended until 2012?
No. If your ESTA is approved, the ESTA validity could be extended for up to 2 years only if (1) the traveler is issued a new passport; (2) the traveler changes his or her name; (3) the traveler changes his or her gender; (4) the traveler’s country of citizenship changes; or (5) the circumstances underlying the traveler’s previous responses to any of the ESTA application questions requiring a “yes” or “no” response have changed.
If the critical information such as name or passport number they entered was wrong and need to update, will $14 be charged for each time?
Yes. You will need to pay the fee every time you update those information.
How can applicants correct a mistake when completing their ESTA applications?
ESTA website prompts applicants to review the data submitted for the overall application prior to submission. In addition, the ESTA website requires the applicant to reaffirm the passport number, family name and country of citizenship prior to submission. If an applicant makes a mistake when filling out the passport or biographic information, and he realizes the mistake only after having submitted the ESTA application, he needs to submit a new ESTA application. The associated fee will be charged for each new application submitted. Mistakes made in answering the VWP eligibility questions may be corrected by contacting the CBP Customer Service Center at 1-877-227-5511 depending on what question the mistake was made. Mistakes on e-mail address, telephone number, carrier, flight number, city of embarkation, and address while in the United States may be corrected or updated by using the ESTA update function. There are no associated fees for updating the above information of ESTA.
Can I contact somebody for assistance regarding ESTA?
You may call the CBP Customer Service Center at (703) 526-4200 or 1-877-227-5511. You may also visit www.help.cbp.gov/app/asnwer/list. The CBP Customer Service Center will only be able to answer general questions regarding ESTA. If you need to know why an ESTA application has been denied or you have specific questions regarding your ESTA application, you must file a request with the DHS Traveler Redress Inquiry Program. (Traveler Redress Inquiry Program)
Do I still need to fill out an I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form?
Yes, it will still be required at the land border.
This FAQ is based on the CBP's FAQs , but tailored for Japan.
Inquiries on ESTA
Please note that the Embassy is unable to answer inquiries regarding the status of ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) applications. Embassies cannot check the status of an ESTA application, provide details about ESTA denials, or resolve issues caused by an ESTA denial. Travelers with general questions regarding the ESTA, can find answers to frequently asked questions on the CBP website at https://help.cbp.gov, please click “ASK A QUESTION” section and enter the keyword “ESTA”. Travelers can also use that website to submit their own questions, which will then be answered by e-mail.