What is an ESTA?
An ESTA (officially known as the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) is part of the United States Visa Waiver program. It lets you visit the US for a period of 90 days or less
without the need for a visa – as long as it's for a holiday or a business trip.
An ESTA is open to all citizens of visa waiver countries, including the UK. You can check the full list of countries that are part of the program, on the US Customers and Border Protection visa waiver requirements page.
Do I need an ESTA?
You’ll need one if:
- You're a UK citizen or a citizen from another visa waiver country visiting the US
- Your trip is for 90 days or less and is for business or pleasure
- You don’t already have a visa for visiting the US
- You’re arriving by plane or cruise ship
Note that you’ll need an ESTA even if you’re only stopping briefly in the US to catch a connecting flight or ship in order to travel elsewhere.
You don’t need an ESTA if you’re driving into the US from Mexico or Canada.
How can I apply?
You can apply for an ESTA for one person or a group of two or more people.
- Apply online via the official ESTA website.
You’ll need a valid passport or passports from a visa waiver country, your home address, email and phone number, plus phone and email details for an emergency point of contact. Where necessary you may be asked for other information, such as details of a contact in the US and your travel plans
- Make a note of the application number so you can check your ESTA status or update your information.
- Make your ESTA payment. At the time of writing it costs $21 if you do it directly via the ESTA website. You’ll probably pay more if you do it through a travel agent. If you're refused entry to the United States you'll be refunded most of the cost.
View your application status. Once your ESTA is approved, it’s valid for two years and you can make multiple trips back to America during this time without having to reapply.
You don’t need to print off or take your ESTA information with you when you travel – it will automatically be sent to your carrier.
It’s up to you whether you update your travel information on the ESTA system for future trips.