Visa for the USA

For a trip to the USA, you need a valid entry permit. Depending on the purpose and duration of your trip, different visa types come into question. We explain how to get the right USA visa for your trip.

ESTA for the USA → Apply now

Who needs a visa for the USA?

If you are not a US citizen, Canadian, or Green Card holder, you will need an entry permit to travel to the USA. In addition to the visa issued by a US embassy, there is a fast and affordable electronic procedure: ESTA.

Travel to the USA with ESTA

ESTA (short for "Electronic System for Travel Authorization") is an electronic travel authorization that allows all nationals from the participating ESTA countries to enter the United States without a visa.

Staying in the United States for tourism or business purposes with ESTA is possible for up to three months at a time. ESTA countries that are members of the so-called "Visa Waiver Program" include:

ESTA USA: Countries without US visa requirement
Andorra Australia Austria Belgium
Brunei Chile Croatia Czech Republic
Denmark Estonia Finland France
Germany Great Britain Greece Hungary
Iceland Ireland Italy Japan
Latvia Liechtenstein Lithuania Luxembourg
Malta Monaco Netherlands New Zealand
Norway Poland Portugal San Marino
Singapore Slovakia Slovenia South Korea
Spain Sweden Switzerland Taiwan

The difference between US visa and ESTA

An ESTA authorization to enter the US is not a visa. Instead, countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program are officially exempt from visa requirements. Thus, since the introduction of ESTA, travel to the US has become much easier for citizens of many countries.

The main differences between ESTA and visa are:

  • An ESTA is cheaper to obtain than a visa.
  • A valid passport is sufficient for an ESTA, whereas a visa requires an interview at the US Embassy.
  • The ESTA application process is done online completely.
  • ESTA approval takes a maximum of 72 hours, whereas, for a visa, you sometimes have to wait for months.

ESTA USA: Requirements

In order to obtain ESTA approval for the USA, you must meet some requirements. These relate to your travel intent, planned length of stay, and some personal characteristics.

Passport issuing country

To travel to the USA with ESTA, your passport must have been issued in one of the countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program.

Purpose of travel

You may use ESTA for tourist or short business travel only. ESTA authorization is not a work permit and must not be linked to any immigration intent.

Travel Duration

ESTA allows you to stay in the USA for a maximum of three months at a time. Within the validity period of two years, you may travel to the United States multiple times with the same ESTA.

Personal and biographical requirements

You may only enter the USA with an ESTA if you meet the physical, mental, and biographical requirements. The following conditions apply:

  • You have never been denied an ESTA application.
  • You have not been to North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen after March 1st, 2011.
  • You are not a citizen of the Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria, in addition to your citizenship in a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • You have never been deported from the United States.
  • You have not committed any crimes, been arrested, charged, or convicted.
  • You are in good health and pose no financial risk to the United States (e.g., in the form of anticipated health care costs).
  • You have no intention of living and/or working in the United States.
  • You have never been in the USA without authorization.

If you meet all these criteria and are from one of the Visa Waiver Program countries, you are likely to be eligible for ESTA travel authorization to the USA.

ESTA USA: required documents

To apply for an ESTA, you will need a biometric passport that is valid for at least the duration of your trip. Since the US authorities electronically link ESTA and the passport, you will also need to apply for a new ESTA when your passport expires.

USA entry with children

Children also need a biometric passport to enter the US with ESTA. You must submit a separate ESTA application for each child traveling with you. This can be done using the group travel function in the ESTA application form.

If your child does not have a biometric passport but only a children's passport, you can apply for a visa instead of ESTA.

Apply for ESTA USA

You can submit your ESTA application for traveling to the USA in just a few minutes at To do so, have your biographical information, biometric passport, home address, employer contact information, and links to your social media accounts, and a valid email address ready.

During the application, you will be asked questions about your health and any conflicts with the law, among other things. Answer them truthfully and then submit the application..

After an automatic check, you will receive your ESTA approval by email, which usually arrives after a few minutes.

ESTA for the USA → Apply now


After ESTA approval, check all data in the confirmation email, including your passport number, again. If you have made a mistake, you must submit a new application.

What am I allowed to do in the USA with ESTA?

With an ESTA authorization, you are allowed to do the following after US entry:

  • Meet business partners
  • Attend conferences without pay
  • Participate in short-term training or recreational study programs
  • Take a vacation, visit friends and relatives
  • Receive medical treatment
  • Participate in events or contests without pay
  • Transit the United States to another country


You need a separate visa to take up professional employment or study in the USA.

How long is an ESTA for the USA valid?

Once approved, the ESTA travel authorization is valid for a total of two years but no longer than the expiration date of your passport. If your passport expires and you apply for a new one, you must also apply for a new ESTA.

Entering the USA: Things to be aware of

When you arrive at the US border, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer has the final decision on whether or not you will be allowed to enter the country. Decisions are made based on all the data the officers have on you. This includes:

  • A check of your personal information against official US government databases
  • The information from your ESTA application
  • Your personal impression/appearance at the border
  • The answers you give in the interview at the point of entry

During the interview, border officials will attempt to screen your actual intent to enter the country one last time. Common questions at the United States border include:

  • "Why are you visiting the USA?"
  • "How long are you staying in the USA?"
  • "Where will you be staying?"
  • "What's your first address in the States?"
  • "Who are you visiting?"

Answer briefly, accurately, and truthfully. If you do, there should be nothing standing in the way of your entry into the United States.

Passport control

Passport control at the United States border is partly done electronically at the APC (Automated Passport Control) machine and partly still in person by border agents. While waiting in the arrivals hall, you will be signaled by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer if you can proceed to automated passport control.

Customs baggage screening

In some cases, U.S. Border Patrol agents may need to search travelers' luggage to ensure the protection of the United States security, economy, and environment. Do not be put off by any searches or additional questions and remain friendly.

Observe entry requirements

When entering the USA, follow the current immigration regulations, including all security advisories.

Observe import regulations

Find out the exact import regulations for the USA before you enter the country. There are strict rules for bringing food, plants, animals, medicines, luxury goods, and other items.


Do you have further questions about traveling to the USA with ESTA? Find what you are looking for in our FAQ:

An ESTA application for a USA trip is usually approved within 72 hours. However, in rare cases, it can take longer, and in the event of rejection, you will need to apply for a visa, which takes much more time. Therefore, we recommend that you apply for your ESTA at the beginning of your travel planning.

With an ESTA, you can stay in the USA for a maximum of three months at a time. However, you can enter the United States multiple times within the 2-year validity period. When making several ESTA trips in a row, always make sure to keep plausible intervals so as not to raise suspicions of immigration intent.

Under certain conditions, you can apply for an immigrant visa (Green Card) for the USA. However, you should never attempt this in conjunction with an ESTA application.

We recommend entering the annual Green Card Lottery, in which the US government gives away 55,000 Green Cards to applicants from around the world each year. Other (but much more difficult) ways to obtain a Green Card include finding an employer who will sponsor your immigration or reuniting your family with close relatives in the US.

You need a visa or ESTA approval to enter the USA unless you are a US citizen, Green Card holder, or Canadian citizen.

If you want to work in the USA, you must have a work permit or a Green Card. An ESTA does not entitle you to employment but only to brief business meetings, unpaid attendance at events, and contract negotiations.

If you want to study in the USA, then you can apply for a student visa. For details on the student visa requirements in the USA, please visit the US government's website or contact the USA experts at The American Dream.