South Korean citizens can apply for an ESTA
South Korea joined the Visa Waiver Program in 2008
South Korea is an active member of the Visa Waiver Program
➤ ESTA is for visits of less than 90 days
➤ Travelers arriving by land, air or sea require an ESTA
➤ Valid electronic and machine readable passport is required
➤ ESTA is for tourism, business, transit, medical, or transit purposes
➤ A separate ESTA application is required per infant, child, teen or adult traveler
Last Updated 1st February 2023
South Korean citizens can apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver to travel to the United States. The ESTA allows citizens of South Korea to visit the U.S. for tourism, business, transit, medical and short study purposes without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. South Korea was added to the Visa Waiver Program in 1996. However, security measures, intended to address terrorism threats, have necessitated the pre-screening of travelers prior their arrival to the United States.
The ESTA was established in 2009 for the purposes of streamlining the processing of visa waiver applicants and to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the capability to pre-screen travelers against numerous no-fly, criminal, and terrorist list databases. Thus, since 2009 South Korean citizens have been required to obtain an approved ESTA application to enter the United States.
Any South Korean citizen that wishes to enter the United States for over 90 days, or for other purposes than those allowed under the ESTA program will need to apply for a different visa. Further details can be found by visiting the US Department of State website and using the free "Visa Wizard tool".
Once you have been admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you are not entitled to extend your stay beyond the initial 90 day period. You must therefore depart the United States within that 90 day period. To find out more information about extending your stay you can visit the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
After you have entered the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you are not permitted to change your status in the United States. To find out more information please visit the Change My Nonimmigrant Status page on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website.
It is advised that South Korean citizens complete their ESTA application 72 hours prior to their departure date. Full details can be found by visiting ESTA requirements or the ESTA FAQ's page. It is advised to review these pages prior to starting an ESTA application to avoid any delays or the risk of an ESTA being refused.
It is a requirement to be a full South Korean citizen before applying for a United States ESTA, so travellers holding a passport or travel document with a different status will be required to apply for a full US visitor visa, and not an ESTA.
South Korean citizens can expect their ESTA application to normally be processed and approved within 30 minutes, and the authorization is sent by email in the form of a PDF document. There is no need to print or present any documents at the airport, as the ESTA is stored electronically against the passport in the US Immigration system.
In the event a South Korean citizen is denied or ineligible for ESTA, or wishes to visit the United States for more than 90 days or for other travel purposes than those allowed under ESTA, then the South Korean passport holder would need to apply for the relevant U.S. visa.
South Korean citizens must apply online for ESTA. An ESTA is required prior to boarding the land, air or sea vessel to the United States, and should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure. A valid, un-expired electronic passport must be used for the ESTA application. Applicants can review the detailed ESTA requirements as well as visit the ESTA FAQ for more information before starting on their ESTA application.
An approved ESTA application does not provide a South Korean citizen the same level of rights as a U.S. visa holder. A U.S. visa applicant will need to file a more comprehensive application form, called the DS-160 and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Furthermore, depending on the type of visa, applicants may need to prepare additional documents to prove the genuineness of their U.S. travel plans and purposes before entering the country.
There is no need to print out your travel authorization, as the system is fully electronic and your land, sea or air carrier will be able to obtain your ESTA status information from the DHS. It might be a good idea to print out the paper so as to have confirmation on hand and keep a record of your application number.
The ESTA website abides by the regulations set out by the United States Privacy Act. It’s also hosted and operated by the U.S. government and they have implemented technology to ensure the security of data and other vital information on the website. You can review the current DHS's data privacy measures here.
Here are the possible scenarios which could require a new travel authorization:
It’s not necessary to re-apply, as an approved ESTA is only required upon arrival into the United States.
You will need to enter the most current information for all your passports and citizenships. However, use whichever VWP eligible passport you wish for your ESTA application.
Applicants are advised to complete each mandatory field on the form. Inaccurate information won’t necessarily result in a denial of an application, but may result in additional processing time before a decision can be reached.
Your employment info helps to establish that you are not planning on entering the United States as an immigrant. Your status for travel authorization is still, only within a non-immigrant capacity and as an individual you need to exhibit your intention of returning to your country of origin.