ESTA- Ten Most Frequently Asked Questions

A lot of people who apply for ESTA for the first time end up feeling worried and ask truckloads of questions regarding the procedure. Here are the ten most frequently asked questions and the answers to them:


What is ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is part of the process for people applying for a US Visa from countries which are covered under the Visa Waiver Program of the US. The waiver program allows citizens from a certain set of countries to enter US for 90 days without going through traditional visa process.

This is an online and automated application process and no visit to the Embassy or the Consulate of USA is required as part of the process.

This is one of the recommendations of 9/11 commission which advised that the Department of Homeland Security to implement and electronic travel authorisation process to add an additional layer of security and reduce risk to US.

Which countries are eligible under this program?

The countries covered under this program are:

Andorra Hungary New Zealand
Australia Iceland Norway
Austria Ireland Portugal
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Chile Republic of Korea Slovakia
Czech Republic Latvia Slovenia
Denmark Liechtenstein Spain
Estonia Lithuania Sweden
Finland Luxembourg Switzerland
France Malta Taiwan
Germany Monaco United Kingdom
Greece The Netherlands


When should I apply for ESTA?

You should apply for ESTA a minimum of 72 hours (3 days) before your travel date even though sometimes the approval comes through in seconds of completing the application.

We however recommend that you begin the application process as soon as you start planning your trip to the US. If you do not have this clearance you may not be allowed to board. You need not have concrete plans for the trip before you make the application.

The status of your application needs to be confirmed online, no email verification is sent to the applicant.

To apply for ESTA authorization, please visit

How long does it take to process the application? If you have been denied, you can re-apply after 10 days. Please check the website for the Visa Application process otherwise.

  • Once you have completed your application the approval in most cases is immediate. But if you receive a “Approval Pending” response, check the website again within 72 hours.

How long is ESTA valid?

  • ESTA is valid for a period of two years or as long as the applicant’s passport is valid whichever is earlier. ESTA is valid for multiple visits during this period.

Do I have to apply for ESTA if I am only transiting through USA?  

  • The term “United States” refers to the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands of the United States, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Island


  • Yes. Even if you are only transiting through USA on your way to another destination you need to apply for ESTA. Any carrier that is bound for USA can deny your boarding if you do not have ESTA approval. Just enter “in transit” and your final destination under “Address While in the United States.”

Can a third party help me apply for ESTA? 

  • Yes. If you do not have internet or are unable to fill your information in English a third party like a relative or an agent can help you fill up the application form. However you as the traveller are responsible under the law for the accuracy of all the information being filled in the form.

Can a group of people apply at the same time? 

  • ESTA allows application for groups up to a size of 50 people. This needs to be done one individual at a time using the options “Add New Application” or “Add Unpaid Application” once the previous application has been completed. Once you have completed for the entire group, you can submit the same. A Group Identification Number is created. The same needs to be used for tracking for status and view/make payment.

What happens if I lose or forget my identification number? You can retrieve your number on the website by entering your name, date of birth, passport number and country.

You can retrieve your number on the website by entering your name, date of birth, passport number and country.

Is the data for ESTA submitted safe and private?   

  1. The carriers only receive the ESTA status of the passenger and not the application data.
  2. This data is shared by the DHS with appropriate federal, state, local, tribal and foreign governmental agencies or multilateral governmental organizations only if it is necessary for investigating and prosecuting for criminal offenses, anti- terrorist activities and intelligence activities.
  3. The application data is maintained for as long as your ESTA is valid plus one year. This data is then archived to be retrieved only by a limited number of law enforcement or national security personnel only.
  4. The ESTA website is a US government website with same controls and security which this warrants. It is subject to the strict privacy provisions and controls as governed by US laws and regulations that have been put in place for other such screening processes.

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