Terms and conditions

Travel Purpose Requirements

The following travel purposes are accepted by the ESTA:

  • Tourism (traveling for leisure to the USA)
  • Visiting friends or family
  • Visiting clients or suppliers
  • Seeking medical treatment
  • Attending business meetings, negotiations, or conferences.

The ESTA does not meet the requirements for the following travel purposes:

  • Taking up employment with an American employer
  • Studying in the United States
  • Investing in or starting an American company
  • Performing journalism-related activities

It is possible to work in the USA with an ESTA, but only under certain conditions. The traveller is not allowed to engage in direct employment with an American company, but can receive payment for work performed in the USA from a party located outside the country. This qualifies as a “business trip” and meets the requirements of the ESTA.

Travel planning requirements for the ESTA

When planning a trip to the USA with an ESTA, the following requirements apply:

  • Compliance with the rules for the prevention of COVID-19 is mandatory for all travellers, including UK and EU citizens.
  • The 90-day maximum stay limit begins upon arrival in the USA and also includes time spent in Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean Islands.
  • A return or transit ticket must be booked before arrival in the USA.
  • Travellers entering the country with an ESTA cannot apply for a US visa, extension, or residence permit upon arrival.
  • Travellers arriving by private plane or ship cannot use an ESTA USA and must follow a different procedure.
  • From October 2022, an ESTA will also be required for travellers entering the USA by land.

Passport Requirements for Traveling to the USA

To successfully apply for an ESTA, your passport must satisfy the following requirements:

  • It must remain valid throughout your entire stay in the USA
  • It must be an electronic passport containing a digital chip, which is commonly known as a biometric passport or ePass
  • Emergency passports and German child passports are not acceptable as they do not have a digital chip and thus, cannot be used for travel with an ESTA.

Requirements for the Traveller's Background

To be eligible for an ESTA, the traveller must hold the nationality of one of the countries listed here. However, if any of the following situations apply, the requirements for an ESTA are not met, and a visa is necessary to travel to the USA:

  • The traveller has been to Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, North Korea, Somalia, Libya, or Yemen, or has held the nationality of any of these countries on or after 2011
  • The traveller has been to Cuba on or after 12 January 2021
  • The traveller has a contagious disease or a mental condition that poses a significant risk to others
  • The traveller has been arrested or convicted of a crime resulting in serious injury
  • The traveller has violated any laws related to drug possession, distribution, or use
  • The traveller has failed to comply with ESTA or US visa requirements in the past

Note that a fine for a traffic violation does not count, except if it resulted in serious damage or injury.

Requirements for Agreement to the ESTA Statement

To apply for an ESTA, travellers need to declare the following information in the application form:

  • Their agreement to allow U.S. Customs and Border Protection to take their biometric data, such as fingerprints, upon arrival.
  • That they do not pose any threat to public health, public order, or law enforcement in their immediate surroundings.
  • That they have never engaged in or currently engage in sabotage, espionage, terrorism, or genocide.
  • That they understand that the granting of an ESTA does not guarantee entry to the USA, and that the immigration service may deny entry if the traveller is deemed a threat to public safety or order.

Exceptions to the standard criteria

Travellers who possess a valid American or Canadian passport, or an American residence permit, are exempted from the ESTA requirements mentioned above. However, those who do not possess a passport issued by a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program, but hold a residence permit from one of these countries, do not meet the ESTA requirements and can only travel to the USA with a visa.

Travellers who do not meet the requirements

If you are unable to meet all the requirements to travel with an ESTA, you will not be able to use the ESTA form on this website. Instead, you will need to obtain a US visa to travel to the USA.