What is ESTA, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

  1. Global Entry for Citizens of the United Kingdom
  2. What is an I-94 or I-94W card?
  3. What is ESTA, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?
Closein of an e-passport cover

The United States welcomes visitors from around the world.  We want people to visit and do business in the United States.

Passport requirements to travel under the Visa Waiver Program

Visa Waiver Program requirements are:

  • The passport must have a machine-readable zone on the biographic page.
  • The passport must be an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner.

Please also note the Visa Waiver Program Update 2017.

E-passports contain an electronic chip which holds the same information that is printed on the passport’s data page: the holder’s name, date of birth, a biometric identifier, and other biographic information.  The United States, the UK, and all countries eligible for visa-free travel to the U.S. issue e-passports with security features to prevent the unauthorized reading or “skimming” of data stored on the e-Passport chip.  Among their many benefits, e-Passports help to securely identify the traveller, provide protection against identity theft, and protect privacy.  The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 specified April 1, 2016, as the date by which all VWP travellers to the U.S. must have an e-passport.  Please note that this change only affects citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel visa-free, with an approved authorization from the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) system.

What do I do if I don’t have an e-passport?

If you have one of the older, non-electronic passports, and still wish to travel visa-free, you will need to apply for a new e-passport before your next visa-free trip to the United States. Once you have received your new e-passport, you may apply for a new ESTA.

Recent changes to the Program do not prevent travel.  If you are affected by the changes you should apply for a visa.  You may apply now, or anytime, even if you don’t have immediate travel plans.

Travel under the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA

For background information on ESTA see the CBP InfoCenter page: About the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

For information on traveling under the Visa Waiver Program and ESTA please see our Tourism & Visitor page and our Frequently Asked Questions on ESTA.

If you have a valid ESTA,  you may check the status of your ESTA at any time at esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta

Applying for a Visa

Information on applying for a visa, including information for those who have immediate, business, or humanitarian travel to the United States, is available by clicking here.