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In this article we explain everything about the ESTA authorization to travel to the United States. As expert Los Angeles immigration attorneys, we provide legal advice to our clients, especially Hispanics since we have been serving latinos for over 30 years.


If you contact us now, you will be able to obtain a consultation about ESTA or any other immigration issue. We also offer representation before the Los Angeles immigration court.

What is an application for an ESTA authorization in 2021 to travel to the United States

The acronym ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is a travel permit that is issued to citizens of 38 countries who wish to enter the United States for tourism or business purposes. 

ESTA is part of the Visa Waiver Program, which is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The program is implemented by DHS in conjunction with the United States Department of State. Here are some peculiarities of this travel and entry authorization for foreigners:

  • Includes Spanish citizens traveling to the US for tourism or business purposes. 
  • It allows travelers to stay for periods of up to 90 days.
  • The electronic ESTA system allows immigration authorities to determine whether foreigners meet the requirements for travel to the United States.  
  • ESTA is managed through the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
  • The program represents a very important source of income for the country. In 2014 it reported tax revenues of about $ 84,000 million in goods and services. 
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Do you know how to get the Green Card? In our special article we explain everything

What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

This DHS program is developed in cooperation with the Department of State. It allows citizens of 38 countries to travel without a visa to the United States for business or tourism for a maximum of 90 days. 

In return, the governments of those countries also allow US citizens to do the same. That is, travel and enter these countries without a visa for an equal period.

  • The VWP was created by the US Congress in 1986. Since then it has become a comprehensive security instrument for the US and allied countries.
  • It is designed to detect and prevent the risks of terrorist attacks, dangerous criminals entering the country and any act of bad faith. 
  • The system periodically conducts risk assessments at the national level with respect to partner countries.
  • It monitors the impact of each of the countries included in the program on national security and the interests of the United States. 
  • Thoroughly research every traveler applying for ESTA before, during and after entering the US. 

Who can apply for the ESTA authorization travel permit?

People who meet the following conditions can apply for the ESTA permit:

  • Citizens of a country attached to the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Those who do not have a visitor visa to the USA. 
  • Those who plan to travel for a period of 90 days or less.
  • If the US trip is for business or tourism you can also apply for an ESTA permit.
  • If you want to request a new authorization for one person or a group of requests for two or more people.

What are the application requirements for ESTA authorization ?

  • Valid passport from a country belonging to the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Being a citizen of a visa-exempt country
  • Submit a valid email address.
  • Have a personal address and phone number.
  • Possess a telephone and email address for an emergency contact person.
  • Pay the application fee of $ 14.00 in total, by credit / debit card or PayPal. They are $ 4 when applying and another $ 10 when the application is approved.

Additionally, the US government may require the applicant to supply: 

  • Other traveler names or aliases (if applicable).
  • Traveler identification document or personal identification number issued by your government (if applicable).
  • Applicant’s Global Entry Identification Number (if applicable).
  • Applicant’s employer address and phone number (if applicable).
  • Name, address and telephone number of the person who receives it in the US (if it does not arrive at a hotel).

If you need to adjust your status, read this article and clarify all your doubts.

Who is not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

  • The United States does not admit under the VWP program foreigners who have traveled to the following countries as of March 1, 2011:
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • North Korea
    • Libya
    • Syria
    • Somalia
    • Sudan
    • Yemen 
  • Exceptionally, only people who have traveled for diplomatic or military reasons while rendering services to a VWP country are admitted. 
  • Citizens of VWP countries who have citizenship of Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Syria, or Sudan are also not allowed.
  • To use the Visa Waiver Program, foreigners must possess an electronic passport with a digital photography. 
  • E-Passports have an integrated electronic chip and are easily identifiable by the unique international symbol on the cover.
  • It is important to clarify that ESTA does not determine the traveler’s eligibility to enter the US It is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer who decides the admissibility at the port of entry.
  • Biographical information on the applicant is collected through the ESTA system and information on the VWP is provided. 
  • To apply through ESTA, the application can be sent at any time prior to the trip. Although it is advisable to do it with as much time as possible.

How to request an ESTA authorization?

esta entry permit to the usa
  • First complete the respective form with your personal and contact information. 
  • If you are Spanish and want to apply for ESTA authorization for other people, you can fill out this application.
  • Follow the instructions on the web page.
  • Make the payment of the fee.
  • Take a good look at the information provided and click the Request ESTA button.

Note. If you have any questions about the requirements to obtain a US visa for your citizenship, please refer to this link .

How is an ESTA different from an American visa ?

There are some differences between each of these immigration instruments for the United States:

  • The ESTA travel permit is not a visa, as it does not meet the requirements.
  • The visa is for citizens of countries that are not part of the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Those who travel with a valid visa do not need a travel permit.
  • ESTA is only for tourist or business trips, whereas a visa has different purposes. In addition to business and tourism, it is used to study, work, trade and investment, among others.
  • The main advantage of visas over the ESTA authorization is that they are valid for up to 10 years. In addition, they offer the option of extending the stay in the US for another six months, that is, a year in total. 
  • Instead, the validity of ESTA applies only for two years and only three months of stay in the USA. 

What are the requirements for the incorporation of a country to VWP?

The prerequisites for eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program are provided in Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law in turn was amended in 2007 by the Association Against Terrorism and Safe Travel Law. 

To be part of the VWP program, countries must meet these requirements:

  • Have an annual nonimmigrant visitor visa rejection rate (type B visa) of less than 3%. Failing that, a lower average rejection percentage in the previous two fiscal years.
  • Allow your citizens or former citizens to be repatriated within three weeks of their removal from the US. 
  • Report lost or stolen US passports to the US through INTERPOL or another agency.
  • Share sensitive information about terrorism and other serious crimes with the US.
  • Issue electronic passports that are read by machines with biometric identifiers.
  • Allow to be evaluated by DHS regarding:
    • Country security interests.
    • General law enforcement.
    • US Immigration Law Enforcement 
  • Allow DHS, through the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, to conduct independent intelligence assessments.  

What does the US risk assessments look like?

After a country is admitted to the VWP program, it must commit to maintaining proper security standards.

  • US security risk assessments are conducted at least once every two years. 
  • During the evaluation, the HDS reviews several aspects in the partner country:
    • Counterterrorism capabilities.
    • Immigration law enforcement.
    • Immigration control.
    • Passport security system. 
    • Border management.
  • The information DHS collects comes from several sources:
    • The government of the country attached to the VWP and under supervision.
    • The US diplomatic mission in that country.
    • The Departments of State and Justice.
    • The US Intelligence Community and other sources. 
  • Such reviews also include inspections of operational sites located at airports, sea or river ports and land borders.
  • In reality the HDS is permanently monitoring all the countries of the Visa Waiver Program. Only then can you ensure that US security is not compromised.
  • When a threat is detected, DHS immediately reacts. If the threat puts the security of the United States and its citizens at risk, it proceeds to terminate or suspend the country.

Upon completion of the review, DHS in conjunction with the State Department submits a report of the findings to Congress. In addition to the country assessment, a determination is made on the designation of the country.

Frequently asked questions about ESTA

esta permission to enter the united states

What kind of information do I need to provide to apply for ESTA?

The ESTA permit authorization to travel to the United States in its requirements requires the applicant to answer a series of questions in English:

  • Information on criminal records .
  • Current valid ePassport information and other passports.
  • Details of the current or previous employer.
  • Applicant’s home country address and US point of contact. 
  • Contact person for emergencies.
  • Information about the applicant’s credit card.
  • Online presence, internet provider and social media accounts. 

You will also need to answer a few questions related to the VWP eligibility requirements. For example, communicable diseases , visa revocation or deportation , convictions or arrests for certain crimes. 

Additional questions they might ask:

  • Have you ever received a passport or identity card from another country to travel?
  • Have you ever been a citizen / national of another country?
  • Have you traveled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Sudan, Syria, Somalia, or Yemen after March 1, 2011?
  • Are you currently a citizen or national of another country?

Depending on the answers you provide, the system may ask you other questions related to travel to these countries or your dual citizenship.

What are the answers I could receive when applying for ESTA?

The ESTA system will issue any of the following responses when requesting the permit:

  • Authorization approved. Indicates that the applicant can travel to the US. 
  • Autorization remaining. You will need to check the website within 72 hours for a definitive answer.
  • Unauthorized travel. The applicant is referred to the Department of State website. There you can obtain information on what to do to apply for a visa to enter the United States.

How long is the ESTA authorization valid for? 

From the moment of its approval, the ESTA travel permit has a duration of two years. If the passport expires or the applicant changes their name or gender, they will need to reapply for the permit.

Likewise, if you change any of the answers to the VWP eligibility questions. The $ 14.00 service fee must be paid for each new request.

What countries are part of the Visa Waiver Program?

Citizens of the following countries can apply for travel permission to enter the United States under the VWP: 

  • Australia
  • Germany
  • Austria
  • Andorra
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • chili
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Spain
  • Estonia
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • France
  • Finland
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Monaco
  • malt
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Singapore
  • San Marino
  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • Taiwan 
  • United Kingdom 

What happens if I fall into one of the VWP travel restrictions?

It is important to clarify that these restrictions do not prohibit the applicant from traveling to the United States. But you will need to obtain a visa at a US embassy or consulate instead.

Waiting times in VWP participating countries for visa interviews are generally short. You can get more information on the websites www.travel.state.gov or www.usembassy.gov .

Even if you need to travel for commercial, medical or humanitarian reasons, you can request an expedited non-immigrant visa. 

How does CBP use the information it collects from my social networks?

Officials from U.S. Customs and Border Protection use this information to investigate applicants.

Through the data collected on social networks they can: 

  • Validate safe and legitimate foreign travel to the US. 
  • Award VWP ineligibility waivers. 
  • Identify potential threats. 

CBP officers may use this information to support or corroborate information regarding the traveler’s request. 

For instance:

  • Identity data
  • Previous trips
  • Occupation

Also to “identify possible deception or fraud” related to the information provided. However, the answer to the question related to social networks is optional. 

How does the US define dual citizenship or dual citizenship for ESTA purposes?

If the applicant was born in a country in which he has never lived or of which he is not considered a citizen, the government will make the respective determination taking into account the laws of the country and the legal rules and practices of the United States. 

Does DHS share the information collected through ESTA with other agencies?  

Yes. In fact, you could share it with other components of DHS and with the Department of State. Thus, consular officials can determine the issuance of a visa to a person, whose ESTA application was denied.

Information may be shared with other government agencies (federal, state, local, and foreign). As with multilateral government organizations and any other body that DHS deems appropriate.

Carrier companies (airlines, boats, trains, buses) are informed in advance when a passenger requires an ESTA and if they are authorized to travel to the US. 

What do I do if I receive a notification that my ESTA was canceled due to not having an e-passport?

If you receive a notification of cancellation of the ESTA permit you must:

  • Verify the application with your electronic passport on the ESTA website. The notification is likely to refer to a previous ESTA application.
  • It may be that the notification refers to the cancellation of the ESTA application for a non-electronic passport. 
  • Any ESTA application with a current electronic passport is still valid.

I am HIV positive, can I still apply for ESTA to travel to the USA?

Yes. Although the INA states that people with communicable diseases cannot travel to the US However, for cases of HIV / AIDS, the HHS established in 2009 that this disease be removed from the list.

If you plan to apply for an ESTA authorization to travel to the United States and have any questions, please call us. In our no-obligation consultation we help people to better understand the application form. We have been offering legal services to those who wish to immigrate to the United States for more than 40 years.