ESTA and Visa Waiver Program FAQs

Frequently asked questions about the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and the Visa Waiver Program. If you do not find an answer here, please see our service provider.

All citizens of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who plan to travel to the United States without a visa for temporary business or pleasure require an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP.  Information on ESTA and how to register is available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ESTA website.

No. If you have a visa, you should not register with ESTA

No. ESTA is a travel authorization, not a visa.

No. U.S. citizens should not register with ESTA. According to U.S. law, U.S. citizens need to present their U.S. passports when entering the U.S. Dual citizens should take both passports on their travels, as they need to show their German passports when returning to Germany.

Due to security/privacy laws, U.S. Customs and Border Protection cannot tell individuals the reason for the denial of ESTA authorization. However some of the most common reasons are listed at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s ESTA website.

No. ESTA will generally be denied if you have previously been refused a visa. You will have to reapply for a visa.

No.  Your current application must be resolved before you would become eligible to apply for the Visa Waiver Program.  If you apply for an ESTA clearance while your current application is still pending, you must answer “yes” when asked whether you have ever had a visa application denied. Failure to respond truthfully to the ESTA questions can pose additional problems for future travel to the United States.  Once your application has been resolved, you should then answer either “yes” or “no” when asked whether you have ever had a visa application denied based on the final decision of your visa application.   Applications which have expired (abandoned cases where more than 1 year has passed from the time of initial application) are considered denials for the purposes of the Visa Waiver Program.  Therefore, you must answer “yes” when asked whether you have ever had a visa application denied when applying for an ESTA clearance.

No. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits visa free travel to the US if you are a citizen of one the countries participating in the VWP. Information on the Visa Waiver Program is available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection ESTA website.

Yes. If you are coming to the United States to work or study, a visa will be required with few exceptions, even if your stay is less than 90 days and the job is unpaid. Information on temporary work visas is available at our visa directory page.

Due to the increasing incidents of child abductions in disputed custody cases and as possible victims of child pornography, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) strongly recommends that unless the child is accompanied by both parents, the adult have a note from the child’s other parent (or, in the case of a child traveling with grandparents, uncles or aunts, sisters or brothers, or friends, a note signed by both parents) stating “I acknowledge that my wife/husband/etc. is traveling out of the country with my son/daughter. He/She/They has/have my permission to do so.” While CBP may not ask to see this documentation, if they do ask, and you do not have it, you may be detained until the circumstances of the child traveling without both parents can be fully assessed. If there is no second parent with legal claims to the child (deceased, sole custody, etc.) any other relevant paperwork, such as a court decision, birth certificate naming only one parent, death certificate, etc., would be useful. More information is available at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.