How to apply for an ESTA

During my time on the Which? Travel Helpdesk, I advised many readers travelling to the United States of America how to apply for an ESTA* under the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP).

It’s been a long time since I took a bit out of the Big Apple, but as I am off there this week, I had to apply for an ESTA myself. I was delighted to find that it was an easy and straight forward process.

I accessed the online system via the government’s foreign travel advice website. That way I can ensure I go to the official website and avoid being sent to a website passing itself off as one – and usually costing you a lot more money into the process.

You can access every country’s entry requirements from here along with their current travel advice, and information on safety and security, local laws and customs, health and natural disasters.

The Visa Waiver Programme allows most British citizen passport holders to visit the USA for up to 90 days for business or pleasure, providing their passport includes certain security features. You check out if you qualify here. If you don’t, you will need to apply for a visa.

Click the link to the ESTA website. Here, you can apply as an individual, or as a group if you are travelling with others.  A group application allows you to pay for everyone in the party in one transaction. You will need everyone’s passport details. The ESTA costs $14 (£9.50 approx) per person and payment can be made by MasterCard, Visa, Discover (JCB, Diners Club) or American Express.

An ESTA is generally valid for multiple trips for two years.

Make a note of your group ID as you will need these to track the application.

It generally takes 72 hours to process the application. I was expecting an email to confirm when this had been done, but as this was not the case, I had to log in again to check if the ESTA had been granted.

It had. New York, here I come.

*Electronic System for Travel Authorisation


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