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ESTA application USA: cost of travel visa to enter US after price increase and how to apply from the UK

All UK travellers need to get a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit the USA as a visitor

Travel to the United States is now more expensive for tourists following a 50% price hike to visa fees.

From Thursday (26 May), the cost of an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver to enter or transit the country as a visitor will cost $21 (£17) - up from $14 (£11).

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The document is mandatory for everyone who visits the US or travels through the country on the way to another destination.

UK travellers need a visa or an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) to enter the US (Photo: Getty Images)

What is an ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation and it is used to determine whether foreign nationals are eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

An ESTA allows travellers from 40 countries across the world participating in the VMP to enter the US for stays of up to 90 days, without having to go through the lengthy process of applying for a proper visa.

The document lasts for two years and is mandatory for all visitors travelling to the US under the VMP.

A similar scheme will soon be rolled out for EU countries, meaning travellers from the UK will have to pay a fee for an EITAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System).

The new application is an electronic travel permit that has been introduced to enhance the security and enforce the borders of the Schengen zone.

It is expected to start from 2023 and will be valid for three years, allowing travellers unlimited entries to the EU.

How do I apply for an ESTA?

There is only one official government site to apply for an ESTA and applications may be submitted online at any time ahead of travel.

It can take anywhere between a few hours to three days for an ESTA to be granted, but you will not be allowed to enter the US until it is approved.

You should apply for an ESTA if:

  • you are a citizen or eligible national of a Visa Waiver Program country
  • you are currently not in possession of a visitor’s visa
  • your travel is for 90 days or less
  • you plan to travel to the United States for business or pleasure
  • you want to apply for a new authorisation for one person or a group of applications for two or more people

To apply, you will require the following information:

  • a valid passport(s) from a Visa Waiver Program country (which includes the UK)
  • a valid email address.
  • your home address and phone number
  • an emergency point of contact phone and email

Once you have filled in your travel information, which includes your destination and intended length of stay in the US, you will be asked to pay a fee and submit the application.

Travellers should also be aware that if you have travelled to or have been in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, you are normally not eligible for an ESTA visa waiver and will need to apply for a US visa.

More information is available on the US State Department website.