The ESTA in 5 easy steps

American border services don't joke around with foreign visitors.

Before you travel to the U.S., it is important to be familiar with the formalities for entering the country.

Whether you arrive by air or by sea, or are in transit in the U.S., you must have a travel authorization called ESTA, as well as your valid passport.

But what is an ESTA, anyway?


What is an ESTA?

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) allows you to enter the United States for tourism without a visa for a visit of 90 days or less under the VWP (Visa Waiver Program). So there's no need to visit your local consulate or embassy.

ESTA applications must be submitted online and you will need your passport and a credit or debit card on hand when you begin the application process.

USA travel authorization
Official website

The fee for application is $14 USD. Make sure you are on the official government website. The home page should look like the photo above.

There are several websites that offer assistance with the ESTA application, but none of them are recognized by the American government.

In any case, after reading this article I'm sure you that you won't be needing any help.


The ESTA in 5 steps


The first step is to provide personal information such as:

  • Family name and first name(s) as they appear in your passport
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Aliases or other names

You will also need to provide your passport information:

  • Issuing country
  • Date of issue
  • Expiration date
  • Passport number
  • Citizenship

You will then be asked if you are, or have ever been, a citizen or national of any other country.

You must then complete a section about your parents:

  • Family name and first name(s) of your parents

The next section asks for your complete home address and telephone number.

Finally, you must provide the following employment information:

  • Employer's name
  • Job title
  • Employer's address
  • Telephone number



You must first indicate if your travel to the U.S. is occurring in transit to another country. If you are taking an Authentik USA road trip, the answer is obviously no.

If you answer no, you will be asked to provide information for a contact person in the U.S.:

  • Family name and first name(s)
  • Complete address
  • Telephone number

If you have no contact person in the U.S., you can list the hotel where you will be staying on your arrival.

You must then provide an emergency contact inside or outside the U.S.

  • Family name and first name(s)
  • Email address
  • Telephone number



At this step, you must answer about a dozen yes or no questions. Most of these questions are about your criminal history.

Ideally you will be able to answer no to every question! But it is important to be honest.



You're nearly done!

Check for typos and make sure that all the information entered is correct.

Is everything ok? Move on to the next step!



Time to pay! While I agree that there are more interesting things to spend money on, thanks to this small investment of $21 USD you will soon be on your way to living your great American adventure.

First you must provide the cardholder's billing address.

Followed by the card information:

  • Card number
  • Security code (CVV number)
  • Expiration date

You can also pay by PayPal.


Receipt of your ESTA

Once your application is approved, you will receive an ESTA number by email. This number is your travel authorization.

ESTA confirmation
Example of an ESTA number

Note that it shouldn't take more than 72 hours to receive your ESTA. Don't forget to print your authorization and to have it on hand at the airport.

Once you have it, your U.S. travel authorization will be valid for 2 years. If your passport expires before the end of the two years, you will need to reapply.



If you have specific questions, please contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.

The U.S. travel authorization application holds no more secrets for you!

If you haven't started planning your road trip, be sure to check out the USA self drive itineraries on our website. Whether you want to play cowboy in the American West or relax on a Florida beach, I'm sure you'll find the trip of your dreams.

And don't forget to print your travel checklist a few days before you leave!


And there you go!

If you have any questions and/or suggestions, be sure to put them in the comments below.

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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Karen R Rymer May 23, 2021, 05h33
It’s actually a great and useful piece of info. I’m happy that you just shared this useful info with us. Please stay informed like this. Thank you for sharing. Here’s another informative content. <a href = Canada Citizenship Application Status </a> You may find more details here.
Thulaganyo May 13, 2021, 06h21
I'm in south Africa will I be able to travel to USA with the ESTA with the travel restrictions at the moment??
Karolane Lessard May 13, 2021, 09h42
Hi Thulaganyo,
At the moment, South Africa is on the list of the travel ban, meaning that even with an ESTA, you will not be able to get in the U.S.
Hopefully the vaccines will help international travel to reprise soon!
Have a great day!