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ESTA for South Korean Citizens

Nationals of South Korea need a US ESTA before entering the country. This page explains the prerequisites Korean citizens need to abide by, and the documents they should possess when applying for a visa waiver to the United States of America.

What Is The ESTA for South Korea?

The ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that the USA created in 2009 in order to guarantee better control of international visitors arriving in the country.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is part of the US Visa Waiver Program, which allows certain eligible countries -such as South Korea- to apply for the ESTA by filling in personal information in an online application form.

Korean citizens who have biometric passports can be instantly connected to the ESTA information once they have obtained it.

Thanks to this system, travelers from South Korea planning to visit the USA because of tourism, business, or medical treatments can get this travel authorization and avoid queues and appointments at a US embassy or consulate.

The US visa waiver for South Korean nationals is a simple, fast, and secure form that avoids presenting more documents than a valid passport, with at least 6 months of validity before the day of arriving in the USA.

Note: Korean applicants must know the ESTA is different from the tourist visa to the USA.

US Visa Waiver for Koreans: ESTA Benefits

Before 2009, the admissions for visiting the United States of America were long and slow, and the process required different kinds of documents.

Now, South Korean passport holders can apply from their homes, connected to the internet, and using an electronic device. Less than 24 hours after the application is completed and the ESTA fee has been paid, a message is sent to the Korean applicant’s email address with the attached US visa waiver.

The same procedure applies to Korean citizens traveling for tourism, business, and even transit passengers flying to another country.

Important: If South Korean nationals are going to arrive in the USA because of work, paid or voluntary, then the ESTA is not valid and they will have to apply for the respective visa. Also, if travelers are arriving by road, a visa might be necessary, as the ESTA is valid for those South Korean citizens arriving by plane or ship to the USA.

For those South Korean families or groups traveling together, the USA permits to obtain a group ESTA. It is a good idea for avoiding to carry on all the members’ ESTA documents.

ESTA Requirements for South Korea Nationals

South Korea citizens are one of the eligible countries for getting an ESTA, which is one of the requirements for the USA ESTA application. Those non-eligible countries must go to the USA embassies for getting their visas.

The rest of the ESTA requirements bear on security:

  • If South Koreans have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria after March 1, 2011, the ESTA is not available
  • If South Korean applicants have previously overstayed an ESTA from the USA, they cannot apply for a new visa waiver
  • If applicants have been arrested or have any criminal report, the ESTA will not be authorized. Regarding medical security, if the applicant suspects to have any contagious disease, the ESTA will also not be authorized

The US ESTA permits applicants from Korea to remain at any state in the USA during 90 consecutive days and it is a multiple-entry document valid for 2 years.

The visa waiver to the US expires after the two years or when the South Korean passport connected with the ESTA runs out its validity period.

How Can I Apply for the ESTA as Korean?

As South Korean citizens are eligible nationals for logging in the ESTA online application form, it will be very easy for them to follow all the steps during the process.

The ESTA electronic application starts with Korean applicants entering their email address account to register. All the provided personal data in the US ESTA form will be protected.

The application form concludes with the ESTA fee payment, by using a valid credit or debit card. Once the payment is completed by Korean nationals, the ESTA requirement is sent to the DHS (Department of Homeland Security), who will send an email to the Korean applicant, in less than 24 hours, with the attached ESTA document.

If the US visa waiver requirement is rejected, Korean travelers will also receive an email.

The process is the same for the transit ESTA. South Korean nationals are advised they are not able to request a visa waiver when arriving in the USA, therefore, it is mandatory to have it in advance.

ESTA processing times for travelers of Korea

Even the average processing time for an ESTA is 24 hours, it can take up to 3 working days. If the DHS needs more time, the applicant will receive an email with all the updates.

Because of that, it is highly recommended that South Korean passengers request the ESTA to the USA at least one week in advance. There is no possibility of entering the USA without a valid ESTA.

South Koreans Traveling to the US: What to Prepare Before the Trip

Traveling from South Korea to the United States takes over 13 hours by plane. However, before embarking, Korean travelers must be aware of certain considerations when crossing the USA borders.

For instance, when landing in any city of the country, Korean nationals will face border customs and ESTA controls, which involve police officers asking travelers about the reasons for their trips (leisure, work, business), accommodation details, and how long are they planning to stay in the US. South Korean nationals with a valid ESTA must be calm, as these questions are routinary.

Other aspects to consider by South Koreans is where to change money for US dollars, although this is such an international currency that there are no problems regarding its exchange.

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