Visa Waiver Program

Individuals from certain countries are able to travel to the United States without a visa.  A list of Visa Waiver Countries and more information on the Visa Waiver Program can be found here:

Visa Waiver Program

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online system that is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). ESTA is mandatory for all nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure. Under the VWP, all such travelers must receive an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or cruise ship.

ESTA will determine, almost immediately in many cases, if an individual is eligible for VWP travel, and if such travel poses any law enforcement or security risks.  ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.  Authorizations will also be valid for multiple entries into the United States.  In order to facilitate the authorization process, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins planning U.S.-bound travel, and not less than 72 hours prior to travel.

Please remember, if you are traveling to the United States for work, study or any reason other than tourism, business or transit, you must apply for a visa.

All Estonian citizens are eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. If you wish to travel, please verify that you possess an Estonian biometric passport with an embedded computer chip (i.e., passports issued on or after May 22, 2007), that you have an approved ESTA travel authorization, and that you possess a valid roundtrip ticket that departs the United States within 90 days of your arrival.
Please remember, if you are traveling to the United States for work, study or any reason other than tourism, business or transit, you must apply for a visa.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States under limited conditions and for a limited time without obtaining a visa.

Which countries currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program?
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

Who in Estonia is eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
Individuals who:

  • Are traveling for business, pleasure or transit;
  • Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less;
  • Have an Estonian citizen’s biometric “e-Passport” (with embedded computer chip) valid for the entire period of the visitor’s intended stay.
  • Have completed an online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application and received a positive reply;
  • Have a valid return or onward ticket. Onward tickets may not end in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean;
  • Enter the United States aboard a commercial airline on a regularly scheduled passenger route or aboard a commercial cruise liner. Private or official aircraft and vessels do not meet this requirement.

Who in Estonia is not eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
Anyone who does not meet all of the conditions above, and/or individuals who:

  • have received a reply from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system indicating they should apply for a visa;
  • Do not have an Estonian citizen’s e-Passport (with chip);
  • Intend to work in the United States, paid or unpaid, including work as an au-pair or intern;
  • Intend to stay in the United States for more than 90 days;
  • Intend to attend school or university in the United States;
  • Have currently or previously held a Green Card (Legal Permanent Resident status) and have not formally abandoned it by signing form I-407 at an Embassy or border;
  • Have been refused admission into or have been deported from the United States within the past five years;
  • Have been refused a U.S. visa due to an ineligibility other than 221(g) or 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
  • Have ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime (including drug trafficking) [Note: Travelers with minor traffic offenses that did not result in an arrest and/or conviction for the offense may travel visa free, provided they are otherwise qualified.];
  • Have been afflicted with a serious, communicable disease or who are drug abusers or addicts;
  • Have participated in the persecution of any person under the control of the Nazi Government of Germany;
  • Have ever been members or representatives of a terrorist organization.

Travelers who fall under one or more of these categories are not necessarily ineligible for entry into the United States, but must apply for and obtain a visa before traveling to the United States.

What is the advantage of using the Visa Waiver Program?
The advantage of traveling under the Visa Waiver Program is that tourists and individuals wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, assuming that they are not otherwise inadmissible.

What are the disadvantages of using the Visa Waiver Program?
If you are admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you may not change or extend your non-immigrant status. If your admission is denied at a port of entry, you have no right to an administrative or judicial review. Likewise, if you are found to have violated the terms of your admission, you forfeit the right to contest a removal order.

What are documentary requirements of the Visa Waiver Program?
1.An e-Passport from a Visa Waiver Program country that is valid for the entire period of the visitor’s intended stay;
2. A valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval;
3. A completed 1-94W form [Note: These forms are completed while in flight and should be given to the Border Patrol at the port of entry.

What is an e-Passport?
E-Passports feature an embedded Radio Frequency Identification computer chip, which can store and retrieve data, providing for a more secure passport which allows customs agents to electronically access personal data usually found on the inside of previous versions of passports. All Estonian travelers wishing to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must travel with a valid e-Passport. The Republic of Estonia began issuing e-Passports May 22, 2007.

What if I already possess a visa?
Individuals already possessing a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on the visa for the purpose it was issued. Additionally, individuals traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), nor are they required to carry an e-Passport.

Am I eligible to visit the United States on the Visa Waiver Program if I have ever been refused a visa?
While travelers who have been refused a visa under the provisions of Section 221(g) or 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are not ineligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, they should be aware that they will be questioned by an immigration official at the United States port of entry regarding any previous refusals. A traveler should be prepared to present evidence of his or her intention to depart the United States within 90 days. This is generally satisfied by furnishing evidence of strong social and economic ties to a traveler’s place of permanent residence. It is important to note that there is no specific information which will guarantee admission into the United States, as each applicant’s circumstances differ.
If an immigration officer is not satisfied that a traveler meets the qualifications for nonimmigrant status, that traveler will be denied entry into the United States.

What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)?
ESTA is an Internet-based application that will verify a potential visitor’s eligibility to travel to the United States under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program. Travelers will input, into the ESTA, information that is largely the same as that collected via the I-94W Nonimmigrant Alien Arrival/Departure Form, already required for admission to the United States.
A valid ESTA approval (which takes the form of a positive response from the system) must be received prior to boarding a carrier en route to the United States.

Is ESTA a kind of new visa?
No, ESTA is not a new visa, nor does it meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa. Additionally, a valid ESTA approval permitting travel to the United States does not guarantee a traveler’s admissibility at a U.S. port of entry.

How often would travelers need to apply for a travel authorization under ESTA?
An ESTA will be valid for two years. This means that an individual could travel to the United States repeatedly within a two-year period without requiring a new ESTA application. However, a new ESTA will be needed anytime a traveler obtains a new passport.

How long does ESTA take to approve an application?
ESTA responds to applications within seconds.

How long will the U.S. government store data received via ESTA and who will have access to it?
This information will be subject to the same strict, privacy provisions, use limitations, and access controls of other U.S. government programs. Access to such information is limited to those with a professional need to know.

What if my ESTA application is not approved?
If a traveler’s ESTA application is not approved, a message will refer the applicant to the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a non-immigrant visa to travel to the United States. Estonian citizens who wish to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn please visit the General Visa Information.

Will applying for a travel authorization under ESTA cost money?
Yes. For any application made on or after 8 September 2010, the cost of applying for ESTA is US$ 14. Any third party website that charges more than $14 is fraudulent. Please apply only through the official ESTA website.

What is the I-94W form?
All nonimmigrant visitors seeking entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must fill out an I-94W form (the green form). This form includes specific questions related to inadmissibility issues. If an applicant answers “Yes” to any of the questions on the back side of form, the applicant should contact the United States Embassy or Consulate in his/her country to obtain a visa prior to travel. Travelers must sign and date the I-94W form and must retain possession of the departure portion of the document until leaving the United States.

When can Estonian citizens begin to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
Estonian citizens can begin traveling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program starting on November 17, 2008. 

How do the rules governing Estonia’s inclusion to the Visa Waiver Program differ from those applicable to other countries?
They don’t. Upon admission to the program, those countries just joining the VWP (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, South Korea and Malta) must immediately comply with the new security-related provisions included in the legislation providing for the program’s expansion. The VWP’s existing 27 participant countries will have to meet the exact same requirements in 2009. Uniform security standards are essential because security threats are not confined to particular corners of the globe.

Where can I go for additional information?

 

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility of an individual to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Any individual wishing to travel to the United States visa free must first apply for permission on-line using ESTA.

Although ESTA is available in Estonian, all answers must be entered in English. To apply for your ESTA approval, please visit the ESTA website.

NB! – For any application made on or after 8 September 2010, the cost of applying for ESTA is US$ 14. Any third party website that charges more than $14 is fraudulent. Please apply only through the official ESTA website.

In addition to the questions listed below, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security maintains a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions about ESTA that are updated frequently.

General Information on the Visa Waiver Program

Q: What is the Visa Waiver Program?
A: The Visa Waiver Program enables eligible citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes on stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

General Information on ESTA

Q: What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?
A: A Visa Waiver Program traveler who wishes to travel to the United States without a visa must first apply for permission under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining an individual’s eligibility to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

NB! – For any application made on or after 8 September 2010, the cost of applying for ESTA is US$ 14. Any third party website that charges more than $14 is fraudulent. Please apply only through the official ESTA website.

Q: Why is authorization under ESTA required for U.S.-bound travel under the Visa Waiver Program?
A: Legislation passed by the U.S. Congress in 2007 requires the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to implement an electronic travel authorization system and other measures to enhance the security of the Visa Waiver Program.

Q: Is an ESTA a visa?
A: No. An ESTA approval is not a visa. It does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa.

Q: Are there any countries that have a similar system in place for in-bound travelers?
A: The Government of Australia has a program that is similar to ESTA, called the Electronic Travel Authority. The Australian Electronic Travel Authority is comparable to ESTA in that travelers planning to visit Australia may submit an application electronically through the Electronic Travel Authority Web site.

Who Needs to Apply for an ESTA

Q: Who is required to apply for an electronic travel authorization via ESTA?
A: All citizens who plan to travel to the United States by means of the Visa Waiver Program are required to receive an approved travel authorization through ESTA prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or vessel.

Q: Do nationals or citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program require an ESTA if they are only transiting the United States en route to another country?
A: Yes. If a traveler is only planning to transit through the United States en route to another country, when he or she completes the ESTA application, the traveler should enter the words “In Transit” and his or her final destination location in the address lines under the heading “Address While In The United States”.

Q: I have a visa. Do I need to apply for an ESTA?
A: No. A traveler possessing a valid U.S. visa does not need to apply for a travel authorization through ESTA.

How to Apply for an ESTA Travel Authorization

Q: How does a traveler apply for an ESTA travel authorization to travel to the United States?
A: ESTA is a web-based system. In order to apply for an ESTA, please visit the ESTA webpage,  follow the instructions to answer all of the required questions, and submit an application for travel authorization. Travelers will NOT be able to submit ESTA applications at a U.S. port of entry or a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Q: Is this Web site secure and private?
A:  Yes.  The Web site will be operated by the U.S. government and employs technology to prevent unauthorized access to the information entered and viewed.

Q: If a traveler is approved through ESTA to travel to the United States, does that mean that the traveler can enter the country?
A: Not necessarily. An ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. An approved ESTA is not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. In all cases, Customs and Border Patrol officers at U.S. ports of entry make admissibility determinations.

Q: How far in advance of a trip is it necessary to apply for travel authorization through ESTA?
A: ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, and in most cases, ESTA will provide an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel under the Visa Waiver Program. However, DHS recommends that ESTA applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel. Visa Waiver Program travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA. As soon as Visa Waiver Program travelers begin to plan a trip to visit the United States, they are encouraged to apply for authorization through the ESTA Web site. Applicants will not be required to update their destination addresses or itineraries should they change after their ESTA has been approved.

Q: What happens when a traveler submits an application and how long does it take for ESTA to process an application?
A: In most cases, ESTA will provide an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel under the Visa Waiver Program.

There are three types of responses to an ESTA application: “Authorization Approved,” “Authorization Pending,” and “Travel Not Authorized.” Those applicants who receive an approval are authorized to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Applicants who receive an Authorization Pending response will need to check the Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response. Applicants whose ESTA applications are denied will be referred to http://travel.state.gov for information about how to apply for a visa to travel to the United States. Applicants who wish to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Estonia should visit the U.S. Embassy webpage.

Q: How long is a travel authorization via ESTA valid?
A: Each approved ESTA application generally will be valid for a period of two years and allows for multiple visits to the United States within that period without having to apply for another ESTA. A traveler whose ESTA application is approved, but whose passport will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA valid only until the passport’s expiration date.

A new travel authorization is required if (1) the traveler is issued a new passport; (2) the traveler changes his or her name; (3) the traveler changes his or her gender; (4) the traveler’s country of citizenship changes; or (5) the circumstances underlying the traveler’s previous responses to any of the ESTA application questions requiring a “yes” or “no” response have changed.

Q: What is the cost to the traveler?
A: Effective 8 September 2010, ESTA applications will cost US$ 14.  Payment may be made by credit card and certain debit cards.  The payment system uses advanced encryption to protect an applicant’s personal information.

Q: Can prospective travelers apply for an ESTA travel authorization without specific travel plans if they want to be able to travel to the United States later on short notice?
A: Yes. Visa Waiver Program travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA. If a traveler’s destination address in the United States is unknown when he or she completes the ESTA application, the traveler should enter the name of the hotel or approximate location (i.e., city and state) he or she intends to visit.

Q: How can a traveler apply for an ESTA without access to the Internet?
A: A third party, such as a relative or travel agent, may submit an ESTA application on behalf of the traveler. The traveler is still responsible under the law for the answers submitted on his or her behalf.

Q: What information is needed in order to complete the ESTA application?
A: The traveler must provide (in English) biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as his or her destination address in the United States. The traveler will also be required to answer Visa Waiver Program eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests, convictions for certain crimes, and past history of visa revocation or deportation, among others.

Q: Are answers required in English?
A: Yes. The ESTA must be filled out in English.

Q: Do Visa Waiver Program travelers need to bring a paper printout of their ESTA approval to the airport?
A: No. DHS will be able to communicate a traveler’s ESTA status with the U.S.-bound carriers.

However, DHS recommends that each Visa Waiver Program traveler print out the ESTA application response in order to maintain a record of his or her ESTA application number and to have confirmation of his or her approved ESTA status.

Q: If a Visa Waiver Program traveler has received an ESTA approval, does he or she also need to complete Form I-94W while aboard the U.S.-bound airplane or vessel?
A: The use of Form I-94W, which collects information that is substantially similar to that required by ESTA, has been discontinued on U.S.-bound airplanes and vessels.  However, Visa Waiver travelers arriving in the United States by land may still be required to complete Form I-94W at the border, and pay a modest processing fee at the time of crossing.

Q: What happens if a Visa Waiver Program traveler flies to the United States, but for some reason does not have a valid ESTA travel authorization?
A: Once ESTA is mandatory, all nationals or citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure under the Visa Waiver Program will require a valid ESTA travel authorization prior to boarding a carrier for travel by air or sea to the United States. Visa Waiver Program travelers who do not have a valid ESTA travel authorization may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing, or be denied admission at a U.S. port of entry.

ESTA and U.S. Visas

Q: What if a traveler has a current, valid visa?
A: Individuals that possess a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on that visa for the purpose it was issued. Individuals traveling on valid visas will not be required to apply for an ESTA.

ESTA Denials

Q: What should a traveler do if he or she is not approved for travel through ESTA?
A: If an ESTA application is denied and the traveler wishes to continue with the trip, the traveler will be required to apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. For more about visa application procedures, please visit the Department of State Travel site. Travelers who wish to apply at the U.S. Embassy in Estonia should visit U.S. Embassy webpage.

Q: Should a traveler not approved for travel through ESTA reapply?
A: If an ESTA application is not approved (“Travel Not Authorized”), a traveler may reapply for an ESTA travel authorization after a period of ten days. However, unless the traveler’s circumstances have changed, the traveler will not qualify for an ESTA and will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In addition, reapplying with false information for the purposes of qualifying for an ESTA travel authorization could make the traveler permanently ineligible for travel to the U.S.

Q: How can a traveler find out the reason an ESTA application was denied?
A: DHS is carefully developing the ESTA program to ensure that only those individuals who are ineligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program or those whose travel would pose a law enforcement or security risk will be refused under ESTA.

While the ESTA Web site will provide a link to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Travel Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) Web site, there are no guarantees that a request for redress through DHS TRIP will resolve the Visa Waiver Program ineligibility that caused an applicant’s ESTA application to be denied.

Please note that Embassies and Consulates will not be able to provide details about ESTA denials.

ESTA and Data Privacy

Q: How will the U.S. government protect the privacy of ESTA data and who will have access to it?
A: Information submitted by applicants through the ESTA Web site will be subject to the same strict privacy provisions and controls that have been established for similar traveler screening programs. Access to such information is limited to those with a professional need to know.

Q: Will DHS share ESTA data with others?
A: The information collected by and maintained in ESTA may be used by other components of DHS on a need-to-know basis consistent with the component’s mission.

Under current agreements between DHS and the U.S. Department of State (DOS), information submitted during an ESTA application may be shared with consular officers of DOS to assist them in determining whether a visa should be issued to an applicant after an ESTA application has been denied. Information may be shared with appropriate federal, state, local, tribal, and foreign governmental agencies or multilateral governmental organizations responsible for investigating or prosecuting the violations of, or for enforcing or implementing, a statute, rule, regulation, order or license, or where DHS believes information would assist enforcement of civil or criminal laws.  Additionally, information may be shared when DHS reasonably believes such use is to assist in anti-terrorism efforts or intelligence gathering related to national or international security or transnational crime. All sharing will remain consistent with applicable U.S. privacy laws.

While U.S.-bound carriers will not receive the ESTA application information that travelers provide to DHS, they will receive confirmation of a passenger’s ESTA status via the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS)/APIS Quick Query system indicating whether an ESTA is required and whether authorization has been granted.

Q: Will DHS use application data for any purpose other than determining eligibility for an ESTA?
A: The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will use the application data to screen the individual before granting authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. As part of this screening process, information that identifies suspected or known violators of the law and other persons of concern will be provided to the appropriate law enforcement, national security, and/or counterterrorism agency.

If you already possess a valid U.S. visa, you do not need to apply for travel authorization under ESTA, nor do you need to carry a biometric passport. ESTA and the biometric passport requirement apply only to those who wish to travel to the United States visa free.

For general questions related to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), please read our ESTA Frequently Asked Questions.
If you still have additional questions about the Visa Waiver Program, please write to the following address: VWPEstonia@state.gov
Please note that the Embassy will not be able to answer questions regarding ESTA denials or pending ESTA requests.
These questions must be addressed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at the following website: http://www.dhs.gov/trip.