The Catholic University of America

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

ESTA is an electronic system that will help Customs and Border Patrol determine whether someone is eligible to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program or whether they would pose pose a risk to the United States. It was developed to meet the requirements of Section 711 of The Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007.

Each person, regardless of age, wishing to enter the U.S. using the Visa Waiver program must receive authorization through ESTA before bording a plane or boat headed for the U.S.. ESTA Applications can be submitted at any time prior to travel to the U.S. but should be submitted at least 72 hours before departure.

  • There is no cost to apply for ESTA authorization
  • Traveler does not need to have specific travel plans at the time of filing.
  • The ESTA application will ask for the following information:
    • name
    • birth date
    • passport information
    • destination in US
    • answer series of questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests, convictions for certain crimes, past history of visas revocation or deportation, etc.
  • In most cases, ESTA will provide an immediate determination. There are three determination types:
    1. Authorization Approved - traveler may enter US under Visa Waiver Program. Although the Department of Homeland Security can inform airlines and ships with a traveler's ESTA status, it is recommended that the traveler maintain a record of their ESTA application number and to have confirmation of their ESTA status.
    2. Authorization Pending - traveler needs to check the web site within 72 hours for updates until a final determination is made
    3. Authorization Denied - traveler cannot use Visa Waiver program to enter U.S. and should apply for visa at U.S. counsulate. Traveler can reapply after waiting for 10 days if his/her circumstance have changed.
  • ESTA authorizations can be valid for up to two years or on the expiration date of the passport to which it is linked if the passport will expire before two years. If the passport changes (expires, is lost, etc) and the traveler has a new one, a new ESTA application must be submitted.
  • New ESTA authorization is needed when:
    • the Traveler obtains a new passport
    • has a name change
    • changes gender
    • changes country of citizenship
    • if the circumstances of the previous application change