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Travelling to the United States: getting an ESTA
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Will you soon be travelling to Chicago to negotiate a business agreement? Are you about explore America’s west coast on a road trip? Are you planning to attend a professional convention in New-York? If you are a national of a Visa Waiver Program participant country, you will be able to travel to the United States and stay for up to 90 days without a visa. However, you must obtain a valid authorization under ESTA. Spotlight on an USA entry procedure which is compulsory for the citizens of 38 countries.

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Who needs an ESTA?

What is your nationality and what type of passport do you have? Answer this question to find out if you need to get an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before travelling to the United States.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP): visa free travel

38 countries currently take part in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chili, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom.

If you are a national of one of these countries, you won't need to request a visa for tourism or business stays of less than three months. Nevertheless, you must hold an authorization under ESTA and a round-trip ticket when travelling to the US. As health costs in the United States tend to be extremely high, subscribing to adequate travel insurance for United States is recommended.

VWP passport requirements

You may travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program only if your passport meets specific requirements. Before you apply for an ESTA, make sure your passport:

  • was issued by one of the countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program,
  • is valid for at least six months after your stay in the US,
  • is an e-passport (integrated chip and digital photograph) if it was issued after October 26th 2006,
  • is machine-readable (digital photograph printed on the data page or integrated electronic chip) if it was issued between October 26th 2005 and October 26th 2006.

If your passport doesn't meet these requirements, you will need to request a visa to travel to the US.

How to get an ESTA

Your departure date is getting close… Do not wait until the last minute to apply for an ESTA. Applications must be submitted at the latest 72 hours prior to US-bound travel.

Applying online

The web-based ESTA application process ( is broken down into several steps. Pay attention, other websites offer expensive ESTA application services. These websites haven't been approved by the US government.

  1. Complete the online application form. You must provide information regarding your identity, your contact details, your passport, your trip and answer seven questions.
  2. Once you have checked the accuracy of your answers, submit your application.
  3. Record your application number. You will need it later on if you wish to check the status of your application or update your data.
  4. Make online payment.
  5. Check your application status. You will receive an answer either immediately or within a maximum of 72 hours. There are three possible responses: authorization approved, authorization pending or travel not authorized.

Understanding your application status

Has your authorization been approved? You may travel to the United States without having to take any further steps. Printing out your ESTA and keeping it with you during your trip is recommended.

If your authorization is pending, you will be able to check the final status of your application through the ESTA website within 72 hours.

If your ESTA application is denied, this means you cannot travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. You must request a visa.

ESTA in a nutshell

The ESTA procedure aims to reduce VWP security risk. What are the main features of this travel authorization?

For which travelers? Nationals of countries taking part in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
Application method Online
Processing times 72 hours
Validity 2 years, multiple entries permitted
Fees $14 ($4 processing fee, $10 authorization fee)

To find out more about ESTA:

Take a look at the ESTA website and check the US Department of Homeland Security VWP and ESTA FAQ.

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