Anyone travelling to the United States must apply for a travel authorisation before departure. Only travellers who have an ESTA, a visa or a US or Canadian passport are allowed to enter the USA. But what exactly is an ESTA?

Flag of AmericaESTA for a trip to the United States of America

What is an ESTA?

The ESTA is a digital travel authorisation for the United States. Travellers holding an ESTA are allowed to travel to the USA without a visa.

The abbreviation ESTA stands for ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorization’. Other names used for this travel authorisation include ESTA USA, ESTA United States or ESTA America. All these refer to the same digital travel authorisation for the United States.

The ESTA system is a safety measure that allows the American government to deny access to the country to unwanted travellers even before they board a plane or ship to the USA. The ESTA is very similar to the electronic travel authorisations issued by other governments, such as the eTA for Canada, the eVisitor visa for Australia, and the ETA for Sri Lanka. More and more governments worldwide are adopting a similar system as a replacement for traditional visas and/or visa-free travel.

Benefits of the ESTA for the USA

Applying for an ESTA allows you to travel to the USA without a visa. Many travellers choose the ESTA because this travel authorisation is easier, faster and cheaper to obtain than a visa for the United States. The visa application process requires making an appointment at a US consulate or embassy, while an ESTA application is done entirely online. All the applicant needs to do is fill in an online application form and provide a digital copy of the passport. On average, ESTA applications are processed after just 3 days. In case of urgent application, the ESTA is granted on average as early as 60 minutes after paying the fee and submitting the required documents. Once the travel authorisation is granted, the applicant will receive a confirmation via email and text message.

ESTA statement

The purpose of the ESTA system is to check travellers before they leave for the USA. This way, travellers trying to enter the USA with undesirable intentions can be stopped even before their departure. This concerns travellers who may pose a threat to the security, public health and/or law enforcement of the United States.

Since the application form must be filled in before departure, the U.S. Customs & Border Protection knows who wants to enter the country. Because of this pre-departure check, unwanted visitors can easily be denied entry to the United States. The admissibility of travellers is tested on the basis of a number of background questions, among others. These relate, among other things, to the traveller’s criminal record. Another component of this relatively simple check is the ESTA statement that is part of every ESTA application. By agreeing to this statement, the applicant not only declares that the application form has been completed to the best of his or her knowledge and belief, but also that he or she will not object or appeal the final decision on whether he or she will be admitted to US territory.

Introduction of the ESTA USA

The US Department of Homeland Security introduced the ESTA to increase security and control of travel to the United States, partly in response to the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. The ESTA replaces the green I-94W form that had to be completed on the plane. On this form, travellers had to fill in details about themselves and about their journey and stay.

Information about visa and ESTA

What about the visa for the USA? Travellers to the USA, can also apply for a visa instead of an ESTA. However, visa applications require a visit to a US embassy or consulate, while the ESTA application process takes place entirely online. Other benefits of the ESTA USA compared to the visa are the lower costs and faster granting (in case of an urgent application, usually after 60 minutes). Therefore, applying for a visa is only recommended to travellers who do not meet the ESTA requirements.


ESTA USA application

Travellers with English or Irish nationality can easily apply for their ESTA via e-Visa.co.uk as long as they meet all requirements. The application can easily be submitted using the digital application form. The required copy of the passport can also be submitted digitally. Once the US immigration service has approved the application, you will receive a confirmation via email and text message. Click the button below to start the application immediately or to learn more about the application process.

All about the ESTA and how to apply for this travel authorisation

e-Visa.co.uk is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.co.uk acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.co.uk, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as £33.41 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.