ESTA USA - Apply easily for a tourist visa for the United States

ESTA is the "Electronic System for Travel Authorization".ESTA is an automated system that determines whether a traveller is allowed to enter the United States of America under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Through the granted ESTA authorization, tourists from Germany and 37 other countries can stay in the USA for up to 90 dayswithout having to apply for an additional visa.

At, we strive to provide our customers with a pleasant and relaxing trip. When you book a trip with us, we take care of the ESTA process for you. However, if you are planning a trip yourself, you may want to learn more about the ESTA application process.

Keep on reading to learn more about ESTA, travel visas and other important information regarding travel to the USA.

Important note: The information available to us is from 2015 and does not constitute visa advice. Instead, they are intended to provide initial information. Currently valid information can be obtained from the U.S. Embassy, the Department of State, Customs and on the official ESTA page.

Entry requirements USA

ESTA was created by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to facilitate tourist stays of less than 90 days. ESTA was established as a method of border protection to allow travellers to enter the United States without having to apply for a visa first. This allows the U.S. government to determine whether ESTA applicants may be a security risk in a relatively straightforward and manageable manner.

To receive an entry permit through ESTA , the planned stay in the U.S. can't exceed 90 days and the purpose of the stay must be for a private or business purpose. Furthermore, the traveller must be a citizen of one of the 38 countries where visa-free ESTA travel applies and must have a passport that is valid for at least the entire duration of the trip.

If the traveller meets these requirements, he or she may submit an ESTA application and wait for the entry permit .

Visa USA

In addition to the ESTA tourist visa, there are several other visas for the entry and long-term stay in the USAwhich can also be applied for. These differ between immigrant and non-immigrant visas and must be applied for at a US consulate.

Non-immigrant visas are for people whose permanent residence is outside the U.S. and who want to stay in the U.S. for a limited period of time. This includes tourists who want to stay longer than 90 days, business travellers, students or workers. There are different categories of these visas depending on the purpose of the stay.

For individuals seeking to enter the United States as a religious worker, there is the R-1 visa. This can be used to work in faith communities and religious institutions.

Investors or traders need the E-1 or E-2 visa, which allows them to carry out investment or trading activities in the U.S.

Ship crews need the C-1 visa, which must also be obtained by crew members of a shipping company during short stopovers in the USA.

There are different visa categories for students who want to study in the USA. If you want to study at an accredited educational institute, you will need the F-1 visa. For a non-academic institute, the M-1 visa will be applied for. Interns and participants in exchange programs can apply for the J-visa option.

Immigrant visas are applied for by people who wish to stay in the U.S. indefinitely or relocate permanently. An immigrant visa holder receives the "Permanent Resident Card", which is also known as a "Green Card" .

Tourist visa USA

Germany participates in the Visa Waiver Program (Visa Waiver Program) through ESTA, which makes it easier for German citizens to travel to the United States. In 2009, the requirements for visa-free travel were increased to strengthen security. Citizens of countries that are part of this program may continue to enter the U.S. without a visa, but must apply for ESTA approval well in advance of their trip. ESTA is an automated form responsible for all tourists participating in visa-free travel.

The Visa Waiver Program with ESTA enables simplified entry for a large number of travellers. ESTA aims to provide the U.S. Department of Homeland Security with an overview of who can enter the USA and to verify these individuals before their departure. While the ESTA travel authorization is considered proof, it does not guarantee approval of entry, it is only a basic requirement.

Since November 2014, the complete ESTA application consists of mandatory fields. Thus, information on the passport, name, date of birth, destination and flight data must be provided. The names of the parents, information on the current employer, an emergency contact and a contact person in the U.S. must also be provided with ESTA.

Once a traveller has been granted ESTA entry authorization, it is valid for 2 years. This means that you can theoretically enter the USA as often as you like within 2 years, as long as it is for a vacation. If the passport used for the ESTA application expires during this period, the validity expires and the entry permit must be applied for again.

A new ESTA application must also be submitted in the event of a change of name or gender. If the answer of the traveller to one of the questions asked in the ESTA application form, which can be answered with yes or no, has changed, the permit must also be reapplied for. This means, when in doubt rather reapply your ESTA to be on the safe side.

Furthermore, it is important to note that a successful ESTA entry approval does not constitute a legal right to travel; the U.S. authorities are still allowed to deny the traveller entry directly at the airport. If ESTA approval cannot be granted before travel, another visa must be applied for promptly.

When planning a trip with children and ESTA, there are also a few important points to consider. Children must have a child passport or a machine-readable passport. A child's ID card, an entry in the parent's passport or a child's passport issued after 26.10.2006 will not be accepted for ESTA. The ID card must contain a photo and must not have been altered in any way. This is the only way to travel visa-free with a child through ESTA - otherwise a visa must be applied for.

A visa that cannot be approved through ESTA must be applied for if the traveller only holds a temporary passport, traveller's identification card, child's identification card, or immigrant traveller's identification card.

Proof of a return ticket is another important requirement for ESTA approval. This ensures that the tourist can plan and start a return trip to the home country even before the start of the trip.

Transit travelers, passengers who are only making a stopover as part of their trip in the U.S., must also obtain ESTA authorization. Travelers who fly non-stop to another country and only cross U.S. airspace do not need ESTA authorization because they are not entering U.S. soil.

The ESTA homepage can be used in English as well as in German and 20 other languages. However, the required data must be entered in English.

A one-time fee of 14 US dollars is charged for the ESTA application, which can be paid by credit card. This fee does not apply per entry, but per submitted ESTA application. No further fees will be charged if the traveller has an already approved ESTA application but would like to update it. This includes data such as the address in the USA, flight numbers, destination, etc. As previously mentioned, a completely new ESTA application must be created if there is a major change, such as a new name or passport. It can be ignored if a notice appears during the ESTA application that a travel authorization has already been received. Once the new ESTA application is submitted, the previous registration will be deleted. For a completely new application, the fees of 14 US dollars are charged again.

The fee is due at the time of the ESTA application. The application itself is not processed until the fee has been paid, which is only possible with a credit or debit card. If you do not have a credit card yourself, friends, relatives or a travel agent can also pay the fees for the ESTA website. It is also possible to have the ESTA application done by someone else. If the application is denied, only $4 is charged as a fee, as the total fee is made up of $4 for processing and $10 for approval. In case of a rejected ESTA application, the fee for the approval itself would therefore be waived.

An approved or updated ESTA application should be printed and carried with you when travelling.

Apply for ESTA for your USA trip

To apply for an ESTA yourself, go to the only and official website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, which can be found on this website. According to the official website, it takes about 20 minutes to complete.

The ESTA application can be submitted at any time prior to travel. It is recommended to submit the application as soon as possible, as unplanned delays may occasionally occur on the ESTA website. Since some trips are planned on short notice due to an emergency or spontaneous vacation, it is also possible to submit the ESTA application shortly before departure. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recommends that the ESTA application should be submitted no later than 72 hours before the start of the trip.

In most cases, a decision is made within a few minutes after the ESTA application has been submitted. However, the applicant does not receive this by e-mail, but must view it on the ESTA website. In individual cases, it can take up to 72 hours until the application is approved.

After submitting the ESTA application, there are three different response options:

  • Authorization Approved: the application was accepted and the trip can be started.
  • Travel not Authorization: the application was rejected. To be able to start the journey nevertheless, a visa is required.
  • Authorization Pending: no decision has been made yet. The website will have to be revisited later.

Before filling out the ESTA application, make sure that the following information is available:

  • Valid passport
  • Internet connection
  • E-mail address
  • Flight ticket information
  • Credit card

What follows now is a step-by-step guide to the different areas. [Source: ESTA website - as of 2015]

  • First name according to passport
  • Last name according to passport
  • Gender according to passport
  • Pseudonym/artist name according to passport
  • Date of birth
  • Birthplace
  • Country of birth
  • Citizenship
  • Mother's first and last name
  • Father's first and last name

It is important to remember to enter the information exactly as it appears on the passport.

  • E-mail address
  • Type of phone number
  • Phone number (country code + remaining phone number)
  • Street & house number according to passport
  • Zip code & city according to passport
  • Country
  • State


Always make sure that these details also match those in the passport. Make sure that the e-mail address and telephone number are up to date.

  • "Do you have a current/former employer?"


If "yes", further questions will open. If "no", continue with number 24.

  • Employer name
  • Employer address
  • Zip code & city of the employer
  • Country
  • State
  • First and last name of the emergency contact
  • Emergency contact phone number
  • Emergency contact email address


An emergency contact can be a family member, friend, acquaintance or work colleague. Here too, of course, pay attention to current data.

  • "Is your entry into the U.S. in transit to another country?"


If "yes" continue with number 33, if "no" further questions open.

  • First and last name of the US contact person
  • Street and house number of the contact person
  • Postal code & city of the contact person
  • State
  • Phone number


A US contact person can be a friend, relative or business partner. If there is no US contact, the name, address and phone number of the place of stay (for example, a hotel name) can also be. You can also enter UNKNOWN (unknown).

  • Country of issue of the passport
  • Passport number (9 characters)
  • Date of issue of the passport
  • Passport expiration date
  • Do you have another nationality? If "yes", also indicate this passport number (if available)

[all questions - source: ESTA website]

  • "Do you suffer from any physical or mental illness, use drugs or are you addicted to drugs, or currently suffer from any of the following?" (yes or no in each case)
    • "Soft chancre"
    • "Gonorrhea"
    • "Inguinal granuloma"
    • "Leprosy, contagious"
    • "Lymphogranuloma venereum"
    • "Syphilis, contagious"
    • "Active tuberculosis"
  • "Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a crime that resulted in serious injury to property, serious injury to another person, or serious injury to a public authority?"
  • "Have you ever violated any laws related to the possession, use or distribution of illegal drugs?"
  • "Do you plan to engage or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage or genocide?"
  • "Have you ever committed fraud or falsified information about yourself or others in order to obtain a visa for or entry into the United States or assisted others in doing so?"
  • "Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or have you previously been employed in the United States without prior authorization from the U.S. government?
  • "Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa applied for on your current or previous passport or been denied entry into the United States or had your entry application withdrawn upon entry into the United States?"
  • "Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the period of time allowed on the part of the U.S. government?"


All these questions must be answered honestly with "no", otherwise the application will be rejected by ESTA and a visa must be applied for instead. In such a case, the traveller must contact the nearest US consulate for advice.

If an already issued ESTA authorization needs to be updated at a later date but the traveler has forgotten or misplaced the order number, he can still access his application via the ESTA website. You can log in with the passport number used for the previous ESTA application.

Pre-Departure Checklist

Before departure, it is advisable to check the website of the TSA (Transport Security Administration) to be informed about the latest developments in security guidelines. In principle, however, the following guidelines apply:

Larger quantities of liquids or gels should be packed in checked baggage. All liquids for hand luggage must be kept in a container, which must not exceed a capacity of 100 ml. The small containers, in turn, must be packed in a clear bag that has a capacity of 1 litre. Breast milk, baby food, medications and liquids (including juices and water) for diabetics are exempt from these regulations. These must be shown and presented to a security officer.

Shoes must be removed at the security checkpoint to be screened by X-ray. Shoes that can be put on and taken off quickly are best for this.

Valuables such as jewellery and cash are safest stowed in carry-on baggage. Fragile items and electronic devices should also be stowed in carry-on baggage.

During the security check before entering the gates, the following behaviour is suitable:

Take the small clear bag from your carry-on and place it in one of the designated containers for the treadmill.

If one of the permitted liquids such as breast milk or baby food in hand luggage are present, declare them to one of the security officers.

Take any existing laptops, cameras and cell phones from the hand luggage and also places them in one of the bins. Jackets, coats, blazers, etc. must also be removed and x-rayed.

All metal items, jewellery, keys, change and purses should also be placed in a container or they may be set off the metal detector. This saves time and additional searching by security officers.

(as of 2015)


  • Up to 200 cigarettes
  • Up to 50 cigars
  • Up to 2 kg tobacco
  • Up to 1 litre of alcohol
  • Gifts worth up to $100
  • Cash up to $10,000 (including traveller's checks)
  • Medication for personal use
  • Breast milk and baby food
  • Sweets
  • Bread (no toppings)
  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Chocolate



  • Seed
  • Plants
  • Dairy products
  • Fruit
  • Vegetables
  • Meat

(as of 2015)

After the airplane lands in Hawaii, you can embark soon and walk to the entry counter for tourists; there is a separate counter for U.S. citizens and green card holders. The passport has to be shown and the customs declaration that has been filled out on the plane is handed in. After the official asks a few questions concerning the reasons, length and destination of the stay, a fingerprint and a digital photo are taken.

After that, you move on to the baggage carousels and customs control. Once the baggage arrives on the conveyor belt, you walk through customs control to the exit of the airport. There are two exits at customs control: one for goods subject to declaration, marked red, and one for goods not subject to declaration, marked green.

(as of 2015)

First of all, it is important to note that the allowance for travel items from the USA may not exceed 430 euros. Therefore, as already mentioned, it is extremely important to keep all receipts, if possible, in case the luggage is opened by customs. Smaller souvenirs are generally no problem but you should be careful with larger purchases such as electronic devices, jewellery or large quantities of clothing. 430 Euro is not a high amount and comes together quickly. Therefore, always consider in advance if larger purchases make sense to buy in Hawaii because the customs duties must be added.

You also have to be careful with tobacco products and alcohol because the permitted quantities must be strictly adhered to. If these are exceeded and discovered by customs, high fees and a fine are incurred.
The quantities for tobacco products and alcohol break down as follows:

Tobacco products:

  • 200 cigarettes
  • 100 cigarillos
  • 50 cigars
  • 240 gram smoking tobacco


These quantities do not apply in total but only a quantity of them is allowed, or, however, a proportionate composition.


  • 1 litre of spirits (alcohol content: at least 22 percent) or
  • 2 litres of alcohol (alcohol content: below 22 percent) or
  • A proportional compilation and
  • 16 litres of beer and
  • 4 litres of wine (not foaming)


The importer of both alcohol and tobacco must be at least 17 years of age.


  • Personal needs sufficient for the duration of the trip


In the case of higher quantities of these goods, customs duties are incurred, which depend on the value of the goods and are calculated by customs. If these souvenirs have not been declared beforehand and are only discovered by customs during baggage checks, a fine must be paid in addition to the customs duties.

Hawaii boasts incomparably beautiful and largely untouched flora and fauna, which are safe mainly because they have little contact with other ecosystems due to their geographic isolation. The importation of fruits, vegetables and plants can introduce pests that can harm Hawaii's environment.

Therefore, the U.S. Department of Agriculture requires every person entering Hawaii to make a declaration, as very strict rules apply to the import and export of plants and animals.

The same rules apply for export - import is basically prohibited. So rather leave the beautiful Hawaiian flowers where they belong, in their home country!

(as of 2015)

The return to Germany is similar to the arrival in the USA but not as complicated. After landing, you also walk to immigration and show your German passport at the counter for EU citizens. Once this is checked you move on to the baggage claim.

Along with your suitcases, you walk through customs control into the arrival area and the same thing applies - if you brought goods from Hawaii, which must be cleared, you go into the red area, otherwise through the green area. Here, too, you may be stopped by a customs officer and the luggage is opened; if you find souvenirs that were brought along in too large a quantity and should be cleared through customs, you will be fined. Therefore, be careful and keep all receipts of souvenirs.

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