ESTA Eligibility requirements

esta eligibility

Everyone who is planning a trip to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program should fully understand the ESTA eligibility requirements, before applying. This article is designed to resolve all doubts about the ESTA eligibility and the ESTA requirements

Who is eligible for ESTA?

Foreign nationals, who wish to apply for ESTA, are required to complete a simple and quick ESTA registration process online. However, before beginning the process, travelers should make sure they clearly understand and meet all ESTA eligibility requirements.

First and foremost, only applicants from the following 38 Visa Waiver Countries may apply for an ESTA US visa:

If you are a citizen of any of the countries mentioned above, applying for ESTA should be a rather easy process. Among the ESTA requirements, you will simply need to have a:

  • Valid passport
  • Email address
  • Debit or credit card

Bear in mind that if you do not see your home country in this list, please refer to our US tourist visa section. It will provide with useful information, regarding the visa application process.

The next step for all eligible candidates will be to verify they don’t currently have a valid visitor’s visa (Tourist Visa).

This step might seem unnecessary, however, many times applicants are not aware that being in the possession of a tourist visa renders your ESTA application void. If you have a valid tourist visa, refrain from applying for an ESTA.

All eligibility requirements for applying for an ESTA

Following is the complete list of ESTA eligibility requirements, which all foreign nationals must comply with, in order to make a successful application:

  • Your visit to the U.S. must not exceed 90 consecutive days

The ESTA has a validity period of two (2) years. However, this does not enable ESTA holders to remain in the States during this entire time. All visits must not be longer than 90 days.

Furthermore, once your stay is over, you should allow for some time to pass, before returning to the U.S. Travelers who make use of their ESTA too often (fly back and forth within short periods of time) might be considered suspicious. (Click here for more information about the ESTA validity)

  • Your travel should be for touristic or business purposes

Leisure and business are the two travel purposes covered by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). What this means is that studying is not permitted, as this activity requires a different type of permission.

  • You must have a valid passport

This ESTA requirement refers to a valid passport from a Visa Waiver country (listed above). Furthermore, the expiration date must not be within the following six (6) months. This is an important clarification since ESTA validity is as follows:

  • Expires two years after it was issued
  • Expires when the ESTA holder’s passport expires, whichever of the two comes first

For the reasons given above, ESTA applicants must make sure to have a valid passport for at least six or more months.

If your passport is about to expire, it is strongly advisable to replace it first, before making your ESTA application.

ESTA passport requirements

Please note that in order to obtain an ESTA to travel to the United States for tourism, transit or business purposes you must have a passport from one of the countries listed above.

ESTA applicants must have a passport that contains a machine-readable section on the biographic page. In other words, to apply for an ESTA the applicant should have a biometric passport which has a chip. The chip contains a person’s biometric data. If you do not have a passport with a chip, you do not meet the ESTA entry requirements established by the United States government.

The passport must be valid when completing the ESTA application form and it should also be valid at the time of departure to the United States. If the ESTA expires while in the U.S. it is not necessary to obtain a new ESTA. An ESTA must be valid at the time of arrival in the country.

ESTA requirements

In order to meet the ESTA travel requirements, travelers should be aware that:

  • The visit to the United States is for 90 days or less
  • The trip is for tourism purposes such as: visiting friends or family, vacation or receiving short-term medical treatment
  • The trip is for business purposes such as: consulting with business associated, negotiate contracts, etc.

An approved ESTA does not grant the holder the right to work in the U.S. ESTA holders may participate in short recreational courses of study or social events. Participation in an amateur musical, sports or similar event is allowed if the foreign visitor will not be receiving any gifts or awards that can be perceived as a form of payment.

ESTA eligibility requirements

If you wish to obtain an ESTA to travel to the United States you must meet all of the ESTA visa eligibility requirements. As we have established, it is necessary to be a citizen of one of the 38 countries in the Visa Waiver Program. Furthermore, you should have a valid, biometric passport in order to complete the online application. An approved ESTA is electronically linked to your passport.

Foreign nationals who wish to visit the United States are not eligible if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • Have been arrested
  • Have a criminal record
  • Have certain communicable diseases
  • Have been refused entry into the U.S.
  • Have been deported from the U.S.
  • Have previously overstayed a visa or visa waiver
  • Have been in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011
  • Have dual nationality as a VWP country citizen and Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria

If you are not a citizen of an eligible country you need to apply for a nonmigrant visa. The ESTA system will deny the ESTA to people who do not meet the ESTA eligibility requirements.

Eligibility questions ESTA

The ESTA eligibility questions have been created to determine if a person should get an ESTA or not. These questions seek to identify individuals who may pose a threat to the country. It is strongly advised not to lie in the application as this could be heavily penalized with a fine, or worse, refused entry for long periods of time.

On November 3rd, 2014, new questions were added to the ESTA form, these are:

  • Other names or nicknames
  • Other nationalities
  • Parent’s names
  • Place of birth
  • Employment info (if applies)
  • National identification number (if applies)
  • Contact information in the United States

When applying for an ESTA, it is essential to complete all mandatory sections and revise them before submitting the application.

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