Travellers going to the United States from the UK by air or sea under the federal government’s Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) need to obtain a travel permit under ESTA (electronic system for travel authorization).

Here are 10 questions and answers that will help you better understand the ESTA travel authorization.

What is the Visa Waiver Programme?

The United States’ Visa Waiver Programme enables citizens from 38 countries across the world to travel to the USA without applying for a visa. If you’re eligible for visa waiver—that is, if you’re a citizen of an eligible country under VWP, all you need is to apply for a travel authorization online.

Who needs an ESTA permit?

You’ll need an esta permit if you’re a citizen of the UK traveling to the US for business or leisure and don’t already have a travel visa.

Where should I apply for ESTA?

Unlike the regular US visa, which is issued by US embassies in the UK, your ESTA travel authorization is issued by the United States Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection (CBP). You need not visit an embassy to get esta and must apply online at the official ESTA website.

Remember that you must apply for ESTA permit at least 72 hours before the time of your travel.

I already have a valid US visa. Do I still need ESTA?

No. You only need apply for a travel authorization if you don’t have a US visa and if you’re travelling to the US by air or sea under the visa waiver programme.

What is the validity period of ESTA permit?

From the date of issuance, it is valid for up to 2 years or up to your passport expiry date. During this period, you can make multiple trips to the US, but your total stay should not exceed 90 days.

How much does ESTA travel permit cost?

Accepted applications cost USD 14. If you’re using a third-party esta application service, they will charge you an additional amount for their services.

Can I use ESTA to enter the US for any purpose?

There are restrictions on issuance of esta travel permit based on the objective of your trip. For instance, you cannot use ESTA if you’re visiting the US for paid work, education, marriage or emigration. Check the official website for up-to-date information.

Is the ESTA travel permit extendable?

No, it is not extendable under any circumstances. You’ll have to leave the US in 90 days. If you need to stay longer or are visiting for any of the above reasons or to apply for citizenship, you need a valid US visa.

What documents are required to apply for ESTA authorization?

  • A valid passport
  • A valid credit card or a PayPal account
  • Your contact information and work/employment information

I have an ESTA permit. Can I add my family members to it later?

Yes. If you have already secured the travel permit, you can add one or more travellers to your application.