One of the requirements to travel to the United States is the application for the ESTA authorization, which acts as a tourist visa without becoming one and is intended for citizens of any of the countries included in the visa exemption program. It is a procedure to travel to the United States essential for European tourists.

Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.

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Requirements to travel to the United States: visa and apply for ESTA

Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

According to Patriot Act, the documentation to travel to the US mandatory for all people traveling within the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) it is the machine readable passport (MRP). Otherwise, it is mandatory to present a passport (regular, official or diplomatic) with a valid visa upon arrival in the USA.

Even if you participate in the VWP, you must have a round-trip ticket issued by a commercial airline or cruise ship that maintains an agreement with the United States Nationality and Immigration Service.

The VWP allows you to travel for tourism (B2) or business (B1) to the United States with a stay no more than 90 days. There is no possibility of extending your stay if you travel under the conditions of this program.

Now, there are a series of conditions defined by US law as inadmissible even if all the requirements to participate in the VWP are met:

  • Previous visa denial
  • You have been arrested and / or convicted of a crime
  • Criminal history

Keep in mind that only passports that are valid for at least 6 months are accepted, counting from the date you plan to leave the U.S. spanish passport. It is possible to enter the United States with a European passport by simply filling out and printing the ESTA.

If you want to work or study in the United States, or if you travel for professional reasons (representatives of the media, artists, musicians, actors, athletes, etc.), you must apply for the corresponding visa. Also those who travel in boats or private planes.

Countries that do not need a visa

First of all, you should know if you need a visa to enter. There is a list of countries that do not need it for participating in the Visa Waiver Program (Visa Waiver Program), among which are those of the European Union:

  • To: Germany, Andorra, Australia and Austria
  • B: Belgium and Brunei
  • C: South Korea
  • D: Denmark
  • E: Estonia, Spain, Slovakia and Slovenia
  • F: Finland and France
  • G: Greece
  • H: Hungary
  • I: Italy, Ireland and Iceland
  • J: Japan
  • L: Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein and Luxembourg
  • M: Monaco and Malta
  • N: Norway y New Zealand
  • Q: Netherlands and Portugal
  • A: UK and Czech Republic
  • S: San Marino, Singapore, Sweden and Switzerland
  • T: Taiwan

You can enter the United States from a land border point of Canada o Mexico also under the visa waiver program. In these cases, it is not necessary to present a round trip ticket, although they will have to meet the rest of the requirements.

ESTA authorization for the USA

The ESTA is an electronic US travel authorization system (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). The first step is to complete a questionnaire to travel to the United States, which serves to strengthen the security and protection measures for visitors to the United States.

To get the ESTA you must fill out a mandatory form through which the information provided by the applicant is analyzed in order to determine that it does not pose a danger. Completing it takes only a few minutes and is a simple and safe procedure. You can access by clicking this link.

Here is a summary of the 3 essential steps to obtain the ESTA:

  1. Fill in the ESTA form for Spanish and send it
  2. They give you an application number
  3. They answer you if they authorize your trip

The system is available in Spanish and other languages. The applicant's data, as well as the ESTA permit processing service for Spaniards, are completely protected on a secure server and are not shared anywhere else, but are only used to formalize the ESTA application.

Possible retrieve the request ESTA if you have already traveled to the United States before. The following information must be provided: name, surname, date of birth, passport number and country of passport issuance.


Some of the aspects to take into account in relation to the ESTA application are those listed below:

  • It must be done at least 72 hours before the trip. The validity of the ESTA is a maximum of 2 years.
  • The price of the ESTA permit for tourists entering the US under the VWP is $ 14,00 (12,52 €).
  • The information you send may be updated, although not all.
  • It is not necessary to have the purchased ticket to complete the form: you update it when you close the date.
  • If you renew your passport, the authorization expires and you must make a new one.
  • Must be done InternetAlthough it is not a personal procedure, it can be done by anyone with your data.
  • If you are traveling with children, you must also complete their authorization.
  • The data requested are those that appear in your passport and the references of your trip (flight number, address in the US and reasons for travel).
  • If your trip is an emergency, complete the form and wait for the answer: there is a quota of urgent requests.

The main reason why some ESTA applications are rejected is due to formal errors, typographical errors or some omitted information. All applications are reviewed by a verification team. Only in certain specific cases is it necessary to make an appointment at the American embassy to obtain a tourist visa.

If you have doubts about whether your ESTA application will be approved or denied, we recommend that you start with the procedures with 15-20 days in advance, since, in case of being denied, the procedures to obtain a tourist visa could be initiated in good time.

Other US entry requirements

The fact that we have been granted the ESTA authorization or the tourist visa for the USA does not guarantee definitive entry into the United States. For this reason, it is important to know the rest of the entry requirements to the United States, as well as the process that must be followed once you arrive at the destination port or airport.

First, it is mandatory to demonstrate, to the satisfaction of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement official, the right to be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program. It is also an essential requirement to show that you are not an inadmissible citizen according to the Immigration and Nationality Law.

Another fundamental step to be admitted is to waive all right to review, appeal, challenge or any other action of appeal on the determination of the official in relation to the admissibility or not to enter United States territory. Asylum applications are the only exception to this rule.

To reaffirm this second entry requirement, it is not enough to simply resign before the Customs official, but rather a series of biometric identifiers must be presented, specifically:

  • Fingerprints
  • Pictures

The Customs officer will also take into account whether or not the applicant previously obtained an ESTA travel permit with the qualification of "Authorized Travel" or if, otherwise, it was denied.

Based on all these requirements, it will be determined if the tourist is suitable or if it represents a threat to well-being, health, risk prevention and comprehensive security of the United States of America.

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