Frequently Asked Questions: ESTA



General Information on the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. In order to use the VWP you need to get ESTA travel authorization. If you are traveling to the U.S. for purposes other than tourism or business, such as to work or study in the U.S., you need a visa and you are not eligible to use the VWP or ESTA.

Yes. If you are transiting without a visa, you are utilizing the VWP and therefore must have ESTA travel authorization.

ESTA travel authorization does not guarantee you entry into the U.S. CBP officers reserve the right to deny entry to any traveler.

If a traveler loses, forgets, or does not have access to his or her applciation number or travel status, he or she may retrieve the applciation number through the ESTA website by entering the applicants name, date of birth, passport number and passport issuing country.

Visitors traveling to the United States are required to be in possession of passports that are valid for six months beyond the period of their intended stay. Citizens of the countries listed on the Six-Month Club Update (PDF 21KB) , including Japanese nationals, are exempt from the six-month rule and need only have a passport valid for their intended period of stay.


Who Needs to Apply for ESTA

Citizens or nationals from all VWP countries are required to obtain an approved travel authorization via ESTA in order to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP. Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, are required to obtain an independent ESTA approval.

By law, U.S. citizens, including dual nationals, must use a U.S. passport to enter and leave the United States. You should carry both valid passports (U.S. and Japan) at all times when traveling to/from the U.S. The dual citizen must present the Japanese passport when going through Japanese immigration and the U.S. passport at U.S. immigration. You do not need and should not register for ESTA. If you have further questions, please consult directly with the airlines.

Persons who are travelling to Guam or the CNMI and using the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program do not need to get an ESTA. The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program allows travelers to enter Guam or CNMI visa free for up to 45 days if traveling for business or pleasure.

Travelers who plan to spend more than 45 days in Guam or CNMI, or plan to travel on to another U.S. destination, can utilize the regular Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for their trip. Using the regular VWP requires an ESTA and VWP compliant passport. For more information about The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, please see here.

You can check your ESTA status online at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ .  Please click “Check Existing Application”.

Your ESTA authorization is valid for 2 years from the date you receive authorization.  If your ESTA expires, it is not necessary to reapply until you are ready to travel to the US again.  Please plan to apply at least 72 hours before you travel to allow time for ESTA processing.  Every time you receive  new ESTA, you will be charged a fee.

Yes. Another individual may apply for ESTA travel authorization on the traveler’s behalf so long as he or she knows the traveler’s information. The person filling out the ESTA form must provide (in English) biographical data on the traveler including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as travel information such as the flight number and destination address in the U.S. The person filling out the online form will also be required to answer eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, and past history of visa revocation or deportation, among others.

ESTA is now mandatory, all nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP require an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. Travelers who have not received ESTA approval may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.


How to Apply for ESTA

Please choose the country of your nationality, not the physical location where the passport was issued. For example, if you have a Japanese passport issued in the US., choose Japan.

No. Each VWP traveler must have an approved ESTA for the passport he or she plans to use for travel to the United States. If a traveler acquires a new passport, he or she must submit a new ESTA application for their new passport.

Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. We recommend that travel authorization applications be submitted as early as possible, as soon as travel is planned. DHS realizes that not all travel is planned in advance, and applications for last-minute or emergency travel will be accommodated.

ESTA will provide almost immediate determinations of eligibility for travel under the VWP. There are three types of responses: Authorization Approved, Authorization Pending, and Travel Not Authorized. Those applicants who receive an approval are then authorized to travel to the U.S. under the VWP.  Applicants whose ESTA Applicants are denied will be referred to https://travel.state.gov/content/travel.html for information on how to apply for a visa to travel to the U.S. Applicants who receive an Authorization Pending response will need to check the website for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.

No.  Note:  VWP travelers should be aware that unauthorized third-parties have established Web sites, which charge additional fees for information about ESTA and for submitting ESTA applications to DHS on behalf of the traveler. These businesses and Web sites are not endorsed by, associated with, or affiliated in any way with DHS or the United States Government. Use of a private service to apply for travel authorization via ESTA will not expedite the granting of approval.

Yes. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA. VWP travelers are not required to complete the travel itinerary and destination details before submitting an ESTA application. If a traveler’s destination address in the United States is unknown when he or she completes the ESTA application, the traveler may enter the name of the hotel or approximate location he or she intends to visit. Travelers may update this information when their plans are finalized, but they will not be required to update their destination addresses or itineraries should they change after their ESTA has been approved. DHS recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as early as possible, as soon as, or even before travel is planned. ESTA will accept applications from last minute and emergency travelers – those VWP travelers that arrive at the airport without an approved ESTA.

No. However, DHS recommends that travelers print out the ESTA application response in order to maintain a record of their ESTA application number and to have confirmation of their ESTA status.


How do I correct a mistake on my ESTA application?

The only way to correct that type of error is to reapply and pay for new ESTA.

You should be able to make a new application if your previous application was approved. Just go into the application system and click on “Apply” button. You cannot use the update function to make a change on your passport or biometric information. If your previous application was approved, the system will not let you reapply until you close your browser after the first try. If you just applied, and are having difficulty changing something, try closing your connection to the Internet, and then opening it again. You might be told that an existing application is already in the system. If any biographic information in not correct, the application is not valid and you must click continue to proceed with the new application. Once you submit a new application, the old one will automatically be voided.

If for some reason, you are unable to reapply – even after closing and reopening your browser, submit the original application number, if you have it; the full name; passport number; date of birth of the applicant; contact phone number (including country code), as well as a description of what was entered incorrectly through CBP’s inquiry form. CBP will review your application, and notify with next steps.

Beginning September 8, 2010, the associated fee* of $14 will be charged for each new application submitted.

You may update your information through the “CHECK EXISTING APPLICATION” button. Your ESTA authorization is valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first, no matter whether or not any of this type of information changes. It is not required for you to provide us updates, but it is requested. There is no associated fees for updating an ESTA application.

If you misunderstood the question, or thought something in your background was a reason to be denied and found out later that it was not, we advise you to contact CBP through the inquiry form so CBP can review your answer. You should explain why you selected “yes” to that question, and asking for clarification on next steps.

If you discover that you are not eligible to come to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, because of a an arrest or conviction for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government entity (such as fraud, or possession of narcotics), a violation of any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs, or other reason, your only option is to apply for a visa. At that time your previous actions, along with your current situation will be assessed, and the embassy may determine that you are now eligible to come to the U.S. on a visitor or other type of visa. If you lie on your ESTA application and are able to board a plane because of the deception, when you arrive, you will be removed and banned from entering the U.S. for up to 5 years.


ESTA Update

Yes, there are instances when a new travel authorization via ESTA would be required. If you have acquired a new passport or have had a change in name, gender, or citizenship, or if the answers to any of the “yes or no” ESTA questions have changed, a new application must be submitted. Also, once the travel authorization expires, a new travel authorization via ESTA is required.

Applicants may update their destination addresses or itineraries should they change after their ESTA has been approved, although this will not be required.

If an ESTA expires before the traveler leaves the United States, the traveler is not required to apply for another ESTA. However, the traveler will need to apply for a new ESTA for future travel.


ESTA and U.S. Visas

No.  The ESTA travel authorization is not a visa and travelers who are required to have a visa still must have one.

You do not need to apply for ESTA if you possess a valid visa and will travel to the U.S. on that visa for the purpose it was issued.


ESTA Denials

If you have been denied ESTA travel authorization, you may still be eligible to travel to the U.S. by applying for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulates. Please see http://www.ustraveldocs.com/jp for information on how to apply for a visa.

Unless the circumstances have changed, the traveler will not qualify for an ESTA and will need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

If you misunderstood the question, or thought something in your background was a reason to be denied and found out later that it was not, we advise you to contact CBP through the inquiry form so CBP can review your answer. You should explain why you selected “yes” to that question, and asking for clarification on next steps.

If you discover that you are not eligible to come to the U.S. under the visa waiver program, because of a an arrest or conviction for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government entity (such as fraud, or possession of narcotics), a violation of any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs, or other reason, your only option is to apply for a visa. At that time your previous actions, along with your current situation will be assessed, and the embassy may determine that you are now eligible to come to the U.S. on a visitor or other type of visa. If you lie on your ESTA application and are able to board a plane because of the deception, when you arrive, you will be removed and banned from entering the U.S. for up to 5 years.

DHS has carefully developed the ESTA program to ensure that only those individuals who are ineligible to travel to the United States under the VWP or those whose travel would pose a law enforcement or security risk are refused an ESTA. While the ESTA Web site provides a link to the DHS Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) Web site, there are no guarantees that a request for redress through DHS TRIP will resolve the VWP ineligibility that caused an applicant’s ESTA application to be denied.

Please note that Embassies and Consulates are not able to provide details about ESTA denials or resolve the issue that caused the ESTA denial. Embassies and Consulates are able to process an application for a non-immigrant visa, which, if approved, will be the only way that a traveler whose ESTA application has been denied will be authorized to travel to the U.S.

Unfortunately, the Department of State is unable to guarantee next-day appointments because of varying demand for visas. As a result, we encourage travelers to apply for an ESTA approval far in advance of the proposed travel. Information about the appointment process is available here.


Visa Waiver Program Eligibility Questions
  • If your visa application has been refused under section 221(g) of the INA for any reason, you should mark “Yes” for question F on the ESTA application form.
  • A 221(g) refusal will NOT result in an automatic refusal of ESTA.
  • Even if you get a visa after a 221(g) refusal, please continue to answer “Yes” to question on all future ESTA applications.

Answer “yes” if you:

  • have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose or has posed a threat to the property, safety or welfare of the individual or others; or
  • have had a physical or mental disorder and a history or behavior associated with the disorder that has posed a threat to the property, safety or welfare of the individual or others and which behavior is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior.

Answer “No” if:

  • You currently have no physical or mental disorders; or
  • You have or had a physical or mental disorder without associated behavior that may pose or has posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
  • You currently have a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior, but that behavior has not posed, does not currently pose nor will pose a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others; or
  • You had a physical or mental disorder with associated behavior that posed a threat to your property, safety or welfare or that of others, but that behavior is unlikely to recur.

ESTA Fee

Yes, beginning September 8, 2010, there is a fee required by the Travel Promotion Act of 2009. The fee is comprised of two parts:

  • Processing Charge — All applicants requesting an electronic travel authorization are charged for the processing of the application. The fee is $4.00.
  • Authorization charge — If your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, an additional $10.00 will be charged to your credit card. If your electronic travel authorization is denied, you are only charged for the processing of your application.
    We are not responsible for any additional fees that may be charged by your credit card company for the transaction.

All payment for electronic travel authorization applications must be made by credit card or debit card.