Electronic System for Travel Authorization
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a United States government requirement (mandated by the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007
Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007
The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 , is an Act of Congress. The Act implements some of the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission including mandating 100% inspection of all air and sea cargo entering the United States, and a new method of redistributing...

) for participating travelers from Visa Waiver Program
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program is a program of the United States Government which allows citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. The program applies to the 50 U.S. states as well as the U.S...

 (VWP) countries arriving by air or sea to complete online the I-94W
I-94 (form)
An I-94 is a form denoting the Arrival-Departure Record of particular foreigners used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection . U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services uses Form I-94 also. Form I-94 must be completed at the time of entry to the United States by foreign citizens that are being...

 form (formerly paper-based and filled on arrival by participating VWP citizens) in advance of travel to the United States. ESTA is not needed when arriving by land from Canada or Mexico. Passengers (including young minors) (babies) without an ESTA may be denied to check in, although it is possible to get one while at the airport. Since 2010 the payment of $14 is required to obtain the ESTA.


Passengers were able to sign up in August 2008, and the travel authorization became mandatory from January 12, 2009. Once pre-screened, passengers may reuse the ESTA approval for two years, although they may still need to complete the I-94W paper form for land entry, or if the electronic system is unavailable.

At the behest of the Spanish government, the name of the requirement was changed from ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization) to ESTA because of concerns about the Basque separatist
Basque nationalism
Basque nationalism is a political movement advocating for either further political autonomy or, chiefly, full independence of the Basque Country in the wider sense...

 group which also goes by the initials "ETA
ETA , an acronym for Euskadi Ta Askatasuna is an armed Basque nationalist and separatist organization. The group was founded in 1959 and has since evolved from a group promoting traditional Basque culture to a paramilitary group with the goal of gaining independence for the Greater Basque Country...

". Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 operates a similar and older system, which is still called Electronic Travel Authority
Electronic Travel Authority
Electronic visas are issued by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship to some foreign nationals for entry into Australia. Unlike ordinary visas, when electronic visas are issued, no stamp or other documentation is affixed inside the traveller's passport; instead, the computer-based system...

 (ETA) system.

ESTA adds a requirement for pre-authorization to the existing Visa Waiver Program.

From January 20, 2010 airlines are enforced (through fines) to require ESTA at check in.

Before September 8, 2010 ESTA was available for free from the official government websites. From then, the Travel Promotion Act
Travel Promotion Act of 2009
The Travel Promotion Act of 2009 is a law creating a Corporation for Travel Promotion in the United States and charge non-U.S. tourists staying fewer than 90 days in the United States with a fee of $10. The money collected from travelers will be spent for advertising to get tourists to visit the...

 introduced a charge of $14. This is made of $10 which goes to the Corporation for Travel Promotion and a $4 fee levied by the CBP for administration costs. The EU Ambassador to the United States John Bruton
John Bruton
John Gerard Bruton is an Irish politician who served as Taoiseach of Ireland from 1994 to 1997. A minister under two taoisigh, Liam Cosgrave and Garret FitzGerald, Bruton held a number of the top posts in Irish government, including Minister for Finance , and Minister for Industry, Trade,...

, argued it is illogical to think tourist numbers will go up if they are charged to enter the country
The charge has also been described as little more than a way to fund advertisements for United States tourism by critics in the European Parliament.

Applying for ESTA

The U.S. Government recommends that travellers go online to submit an authorization request three days (72 hours) before travelling to the United States. This is not a requirement, and the majority of applications are approved in less than one minute. However, if a traveller is not eligible for visa-free travel, he or she will need to apply for a visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, which is a substantially lengthier process that may require an interview with a U.S. Consular officer. This recommendation has been widely mischaracterized in the press as a requirement. As a result, opponents claim the new rules will delay last-minute business travel. Once a traveller obtains an authorization, it is valid for two years or until the traveller's passport expires, whichever comes first.

Third party websites

Some websites offer to complete ESTA applications for a fee. Access and application through the official U.S. Government website are available to any passengers/visitors to the U.S. who qualify under the ESTA program. Even if one of the third party websites is used, passengers themselves still have to fill in the same form.

External links

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