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ESTA Requirements

There are a number of ESTA requirements that applicants must meet to secure an approval of their travel authorization applications. Many of the ESTA requirements are consistent with those introduced by the Visa Waiver Program in 1988. This page is continuously updated to reflect the most recent changes to the rules laid down by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). 

Citizenship Requirements

You must have a passport from one of the following 41 countries: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Passport Requirements

Electronic chip

You must have an electronic passport with a chip (the chip contains the passport holders' biometric data). From April 1st, 2016, all passengers traveling to the US using the ESTA program must have an e-Passport with an electronic chip, as pictured. NOTE: you will not be eligible to apply for an ESTA if the passport you will be using to visit the U.S. does not have an electronic chip. If it cannot be ascertained that your passport has an electronic chip, then you may be denied boarding on inbound U.S. aircraft.

Machine readable zone

You must have a passport that also contains a machine-readable section on the biographic page.


Your passport must be valid at the time of applying for ESTA and at the time of your departure to the U.S. If your ESTA approval expires while you are in the U.S. you do not need to apply for a new ESTA but ensure you do not remain in the country for a total of 90 days during your visit. You cannot renew an ESTA application whilst in the United States. If your ESTA expires you must depart the country within 90 days of when your passport was stamped at the most recent U.S. border crossing. Visitors wishing to stay in the United States for more than 90 days must obtain a visa by visiting the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate and apply for the appropriate visa based on their travel purpose.

Electronic Chip in Passport

Digital Photograph on Passport

Machine Readable Code on passport

Travel Requirements

  • Your visit to the U.S. is for less than 90 days.
  • Tourism: your visit to the U.S. is for tourism, vacation, visiting friends or family, as well as receiving medical treatment.
  • Business: you visit to the U.S. is to consult with business associates or negotiate contracts with potential clients.
  • Professional Events: you will attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference in the U.S. or attend short-term unpaid training. You are not allowed to receive payment for attending these events except for reimbursements for expenses paid during your visit. 
  • Social Events: your visit to the U.S. is to participate in social events such as those hosted by a fraternal, social, or service organization. Also, participation in amateur musical, sports, or similar events or contests, is permitted if visitors are not receiving any gifts or awards that can constitute as a form of payment.
  • Recreation: your visit to the U.S. is for a short recreational course of study, such as a knitting course, although partaking in courses that award credit towards a degree is not permitted.

Application Requirements

  • You must apply online for your ESTA.
  • You must apply for your ESTA prior to your departure to the U.S. You will receive a response in within minutes after applying, although for a small percentage of applicants, 72 hours may be required for further processing.

Other Requirements

VWP travelers arriving into the U.S. by land, air or sea must hold a return ticket to their home country or an onward ticket to another non-U.S. destination. If traveling on an electronic ticket, a copy of the itinerary must be carried for presentation to U.S. immigration at the port of entry.

Non-VWP eligible travelers entering the U.S. by land from Canada or Mexico must be in possession of a completed digital form I-94.

If transiting the United States to a destination in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, you may re-enter the United States on the return journey using any mode of transport, as long as the total visit, including both periods of time spent in transit and in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, does not exceed 90 days.

If transiting to a destination outside of Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, the return journey must be on a participating carrier, but need not be within 90 days, as you will be required to make a new application for admission.

Visa Applicants

If you do not meet all the above requirements, you will need to apply for a visa.

If you wish to stay longer than 90 days in the U.S., or, wish to study for college or university credit, gain employment, work as a member of the foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media, or become a permanent U.S. resident, you must apply for the appropriate visa as your travel purpose does not fall under the Visa Waiver Program guidelines.

ESTA Refusals

If your ESTA application has been refused you will need to apply for a visa if you wish to travel the U.S.

Correcting ESTA Errors

If you made a mistake on the ESTA application, you will need to send an email to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to have the change amended on your ESTA application. Visit CBP for more information:

ESTA Ineligibilities

Foreign nationals with minor traffic offences, yet without an arrest and/or conviction, should first apply for an ESTA in order to travel via the VWP, assuming all other requirements are met. Citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries wishing to travel to the United States are not eligible for ESTA if they meet any of the following criteria:

[1] Criminal or legal history with prior major or violent incidents

Criminal history includes arrests, convictions, for violent, fraudulent or drug offences. These can also include any involvement in organizations the US deems as being terrorist groups, or violent groups that commit crimes against humanity. If you have previous criminal history, it will likely affect the outcome of your ESTA application.

[2] Prior violation of immigration laws in the U.S. or other countries

Travelers who overstay their visits to the United States will find it more difficult to re-enter should they apply again for an ESTA or a visa. This includes, overstayers, people who previously over-stayed their visits in America on previous trip. Individuals with a deportation history in the U.S. would be highly likely to be ineligible for ESTA.

[3] History of U.S. visa refusal

If you have been denied entry into the U.S. or have been denied a U.S. visa through a previous ESTA or other application for a U.S. visa, then you will likely be ineligible to obtain ESTA approval.

[4] Suffering from communicable diseases

If you have a communicable disease, you may find it difficult to obtain a visa or visa waiver to the United States. Such contagious diseases can include Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever and others. Should you be infected with a contagious disease, you should seek medical attention for treatment prior to applying for an ESTA.

[5] Lack of strong ties to your home country

If you are not able to show sufficient proof of ties to your home country, then you may find it difficult to obtain a visa for the USA. This can be in the form of bank statements, investments, employment / work contract, mortgages or other personal property.

[6] Financially instability

You must be able to provide sufficient proof that you are able to support yourself financially whilst staying in America, based on the area where you will be visiting. If you are not in a strong financial state at the time of your journey to America, you may need to show your trip will be financed by someone else.

[7] Using ESTA to seek employment in the U.S.

If you genuinely wish to obtain employment in the USA, you should seek to obtain sponsorship from a US employer who is able to file a petition on your behalf. Travelling to the United States for the purposes of working without pre-authorization is illegal and will result in deportation and possibly in a life-long ban from re-entering the US.

[8] Previous travel history raises security concerns

If your travel history includes countries or regions that are on the US State department's areas of concern, such as Algeria, Burma, People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Eritrea, Iran, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. If so, then you could find it difficult to obtain any entry clearance into the US. Over the past few years, the United States has also scrutinized travelers that have visited countries such as Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011.

[9] Your employment, academic, or military history does not raise suspicions

Where you work, study or performed military service is used to determine whether or not you are an applicant that may require additional screening during your embassy interview or when passing through the US Customs.

[10] Your name is on a security-related watchlists

If your family are on any US watchlists for criminal or terrorist offences, you may face additional questioning at the time of your embassy appointment, as well as at the US border.

[11] Dual nationality for a country on a watch-list

If you have dual nationality, in addition to a VWP country citizen, you may be ineligible for ESTA should your second citizenship be for the following countries: Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria.

Apply for ESTA

An ESTA visa waiver is required for tourism, business or transit travel of less than 90 days. Failure to obtain an ESTA can lead to denial of entry at the border and a large fine. It is advised to apply as soon as possible.

Apply for ESTA