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Electronic System for travel authorisation (ESTA)

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ESTA

For latest information regarding ESTA, please contact the nearest US Embassy/Consulate in your area.

US Visa Waiver Programme and Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) approval

Passengers who travel to the US under the US Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) are required to have obtained electronic travel authorisation via Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) prior to boarding a US-bound flight.

Passengers who are eligible for the US Visa Waiver Programme should submit applications through ESTA at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov no less than 72 hours prior to departure.

Starting from 8 September 2010, a passenger who applies for ESTA will need to pay an application fee of USD14 by credit card or debit card.

For more information regarding ESTA, please check out the Frequently Asked Questions section.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Who is required to apply for an electronic travel authorisation via ESTA?

All citizens of countries under Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), who plan to travel to the US for temporary business or pleasure, will be required to receive an electronic travel authorisation via ESTA prior to boarding a US-bound flight, provided that passengers are holders of machine readable passports, which were issued before 26 October 2005, between 26 October 2005 and 25 October 2006 with a digital photo printed on the data page, or e-Passports issued on or after 26 October 2006. Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, are required to obtain an independent ESTA approval.

2. Why is authorisation under ESTA required for US-bound travel under the Visa Waiver Programme?

ESTA adds extra security that can help US government to determine, in advance of travel, whether an individual is eligible to travel to the US under the VWP or not.

3. Is an ESTA approval a visa?

No. ESTA travel authorisation is not a visa. It does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve as a US visa. Individuals travelling on valid visas will not be required to apply for an ESTA approval.

4. When will passengers be required to obtain a travel authorisation via ESTA?

ESTA is implemented as a mandatory programme in effect from 12 January 2009. All nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the US for temporary business or pleasure under the VWP will require an ESTA approval prior to boarding a flight to travel to the US.

5. If a passenger is approved through ESTA to travel to the US, does that mean the passenger can enter the country?

Not necessarily. An ESTA approval only authorises a traveller under the VWP to board a US-bound flight.

6. How do passengers apply for an ESTA authorisation to travel to the US?

ESTA is a web-based system. To apply for an ESTA authorisation, please visit https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/, and follow the instructions to provide answers to all the questions before submitting an application for a travel authorisation.

7.Is the dedicated ESTA website secure and private?

The website is operated by the US government and employs technology to prevent unauthorised access to the personal information.

8. How far in advance do passengers need to apply for travel authorisation via ESTA?

The authorisation may need some time to process. Passengers are required to submit ESTA applications no less than 72 hours prior to flight departure time. However, applications may be submitted at any time prior to travelling to the US under the VWP.

9. How much time does it take for ESTA to process an approval?

Determination is provided on the ESTA website almost immediately with three types of responses to an application: 1) Authorisation Approved, 2) Authorisation Pending, and 3) Travel Not Authorised. Applicants who receive an approval are authorised to travel to the US under the VWP. Applicants who receive Authorisation Pending will need to check the website for updates within 72 hours for a final response. Applicants whose ESTA applications are denied will be referred to www.travel.state.gov for information on how to apply for a visa to travel to the US.

10. How long is a travel authorisation via ESTA valid?

Each approved ESTA application will be valid for two years; passengers may travel to the US repeatedly within a two-year period without having to apply for another ESTA approval.

11. Is there an application fee?

Starting from September 8 2010, a passenger who applies will need to pay a USD14 fee by credit card or debit card

12. What information do passengers need to provide in order to complete the ESTA application?

Information needed is similar to that required for I-94W form. Passengers must provide data such as name, date of birth, passport information and flight number.

13. If passengers have received ESTA approval, do they still need to fill out an I-94W form?

Although the development and implementation of the ESTA programme will eventually help eliminate paper I-94W form, the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has not announced a definite date for this plan. Meanwhile our airport staff will continue to distribute I-94W forms.

14. Do passengers ever need to reapply for travel authorisation through the ESTA?

Yes. If passengers have acquired a new passport or have had a change in name or other identifying biographical information, a new application must be submitted.

15. What should a passenger do if he/she is not approved for travel through ESTA?

If an ESTA application is denied and passenger wishes to continue with the trip, he/she will be required to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.

16. If a passenger is not approved for travel through ESTA, can he/she reapply?

Passenger may reapply for an ESTA approval after a period of ten days.

17. If a passenger was denied an ESTA approval but had an immediate need to travel to the US, could the passenger get an emergency appointment at the nearest US Embassy or Consulate?

There is no guarantee of a next-day appointment with a US Embassy or Consulate. As a result, passengers should apply for an ESTA authorisation far in advance.

18. Can passengers apply for ESTA authorisation if they were previously refused admission to the US under the VWP?

Passengers who have been refused admission to the US will not be eligible for ESTA approval and must visit www.travel.state.gov for information on applying for a visa to travel to the US.

19. If a passenger was previously denied a US visa, could he/she apply for an ESTA authorisation and travel under the VWP?

Passenger who has been denied a US visa is not eligible for VWP travel to the US.

20. Is the privacy of ESTA data protected by the US government?

Information submitted by applicants through the ESTA website, managed by the US government, will be subject to the same strict privacy provisions and controls that have been established for similar traveller screening programmes.