FAQ About the USA Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

7 March 2017
Disclaimer: This FAQ does not constitute visa advice. Visa advice can be obtained from the US Department of Homeland Security or your nearest US embassy or consulate.
 
The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) was implemented by the United States Department of Homeland Security and became mandatory on 12 January 2009. The purpose of ESTA is to pre-screen customers that intend to visit the United States on the visa waiver program.
 
All travellers to the United States from visa waiver countries (including Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Japan among others) must obtain approval.
 
To find out if your passport allows you to travel under the visa waiver program, please refer to the website under the ‘Apply for a new ESTA’ section: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/
 
It is important to understand that an approval given under the ESTA does not guarantee entry, but it allows you to travel to the United States and ask for admittance to enter. ESTA is an online fully automated system that verifies your name and personal details against a number of law enforcement databases.
 

How to apply for a Travel Authorisation:

• Complete the on-line application (this will take about 15 – 30 minutes)
• Ensure the application is submitted at least 72 hours prior to travel
 

What information is required to obtain a Travel Authorisation?

• Name, nationality and date of birth
• Passport details
• Convictions, arrests or any communicable diseases
• Previous visa denial or denial of entry or volunteer withdrawal of request to enter
The US Department of Homeland Security introduced additional questions to the ESTA application in November 2014 and again in September 2015. These apply to new applications and include:
• Other names or aliases
• Parents’ names
• Address and employment information • Emergency contact (here or USA)
• US contact details
• Other citizenship(s) held^
 

^Who is not eligible for an ESTA and must instead apply for a visitor visa?

* If you are a citizen of a visa waiver country and also a citizen of Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan you may not be able to visit the US under the visa waiver program. You may have to apply for a visitor visa.
* This applies even if you are travelling solely on your visa waiver eligible passport.
* People of any nationality who have visited Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since 01 March 2011, in any capacity (with some exceptions), may also be required to obtain a visa. Please contact your nearest US consulate.
* If you do not hold an electronic passport (regardless of nationality) you will be required to obtain a visitor visa. An electronic passport is denoted by the following symbol on the
cover/photo page of your passport:
Please note that an executive order signed on 06 March 2017 now affects the eligibility of citizens from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen to enter the USA. Please see the executive order FAQ.
 

Who needs to apply?

• Visitors that intend to travel to the USA by air or sea carrier
• All visitors must have their own ESTA and passport including children and infants
 

How much does it cost?

The ESTA costs USD$14.00 per person and the fee must be paid by credit card at the time of application. The fee is still charged if the application is declined.
 

When should I apply for the Travel Document?

You should apply more than 72 hours before you travel. However, you do not need to have a flight already booked. If you know you will be travelling to the United States within the next 3 -12 months, it is recommended to apply early in case you get denied and need to apply for a visitor visa. Applying for a visitor visa to the US can take up to three months.
 

What if my itinerary details change? Can I update the Travel Authorisation?

Yes. You can easily update the itinerary details. Once you have applied for and obtained your first Travel Authorisation, you will be given instructions for how to update it.
 

Does the ESTA document expire?

An approved ESTA Travel Authorisation is valid for two years but must be renewed / re-done before expiration if:
• The traveller’s passport changes / expires
• The traveller’s name or gender changes
• The traveller’s citizenship changes
 

Can my travel consultant help me?

Due to privacy legislation, your travel consultant is unable to assist you with your Travel Authorisation. Each adult travelling should complete their own authorisation and the appropriate parent/guardian should complete it for each child and infant.
 
Providing false information when applying for a Travel Authorisation can make you permanently ineligible to visit the United States. It is extremely important that you carefully read the questions and understand the information you are expected to provide.
 
If you have ever been denied a visa to the USA, you cannot visit the US under the visa waiver program. You must apply for a visitor visa.
 
For detailed information and FAQ – Please refer to https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
 
*Valid as at 0900 on 7 March 2017*

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