About the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
Normally, a visa is required for travel to the United States. However, travelers who are citizens of countries participating in the visa waiver program are exempted from visa application procedures and may travel to the U.S. using the simplified Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) if they satisfy certain conditions (for example, they must be traveling for purposes of business or sightseeing on a short-term basis, staying in the U.S. for no longer than 90 days). ESTA authorization is also required when changing to connecting flights in the U.S. Travelers visiting the U.S. for reasons other than those above, such as employment or studying abroad, must first obtain the appropriate visas. In addition, some citizens of countries participating in the visa waiver program such as those with criminal records or certain communicable diseases may not be able to use the visa waiver program.
In principle, ESTA authorization is valid for two years from the date of authorization. However, if your passport expires during this period of two years, then your ESTA authorization will expire at the same time as your passport. Also, if you have been issued a new passport during this period, you will need to obtain authorization again using your new passport number.
After you submit an online application to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you will be notified of the results of authorization following a screening period of up to 72 hours. For this reason, applying for ESTA at least 72 hours before boarding your flight is recommended.
ESTA authorization may be refused based on DHS rules. If ESTA authorization has been refused, you must obtain a visa from a U.S. embassy in order to travel to the U.S. Note that obtaining a visa is a time-consuming process. For more information and details, please go to the official website of the DHS, and/or the U.S. embassy.
About the visa waiver program (VWP)
Travelers eligible to use the VWP
Travelers who satisfy the following conditions, and are visiting the United States (any of the 50 states including Alaska and Hawaii), or entering for transit in the United States on the way to other countries:
- Those possessing valid passports that comply with the restrictions on usable passports below
- Those who have obtained ESTA authorization
- Those visiting the U.S. for a short-term period not to exceed 90 days, for purposes such as sightseeing, visiting friends, or business, and who will not engage in activities for compensation during their stay
- Those with return (or continuing when changing flights in the U.S.) air tickets or sea tickets
- Those who are citizens of VWP participating countries
Restrictions on usable passports
Travelers eligible to use the visa waiver program must have valid machine-readable passports. Their passports must satisfy the following conditions, depending on the dates they were issued.
- Machine-readable passports issued on or after October 26, 2006 must be E-passports (IC passports).
- Machine-readable passports issued during the period of October 26, 2005 – October 25, 2006 must have digital photographs on their photo ID pages.
- Passports issued prior to October 26, 2005 must be machine-readable passports.
- Citizens of Greece, Malta, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, South Korea, and Slovakia must be carrying E-passports (IC passports), regardless of their date of issue.
ESTA authorization may be refused in cases such as when the traveler has had a visa cancelled in the past, has a history of arrest (regardless of whether or not the person was convicted), has a criminal record, has certain communicable diseases, has been refused entry to the U.S. in the past, has been deported, or has overstayed his or her time under the visa waiver program in the past. In these cases, the traveler must obtain a visa to visit the U.S.
Travelers who have not been arrested for minor infractions or who were not prosecuted or convicted may be able to use the visa waiver program. In a case in which a traveler has been charged with a traffic violation in the U.S. and failed to pay the fine or failed to appear when summoned to court, an arrest warrant may have been issued, and the person may not be able to pass immigration screening. Travelers in such cases must first resolve the issue and then apply for ESTA authorization or for a visa before traveling to the U.S.
ESTA application service
The ESTA Online Center provides its customers with full support for complex ESTA application procedures, 24 hours/day, 365 days/year.
Its expert staff provide thorough advice for those unaccustomed with traveling to the U.S. or uncertain about completing the application procedures themselves. Using the application service on this site offers the following advantages and added value compared with applying directly by oneself.
- Compatibility with all devices (PCs, smartphones, tablets)
- Support provided 24 hours/day, 365 days/year
- Ability to retry the application if the CBP site is undergoing maintenance
- Support for resolving irregularities or errors in application procedures
- Responding to your questions free of charge, an unlimited number of times.
- Results of application provided by email
- The ability to check on application and payment status
- Correction of errors in registration information, free of charge
Application service charges
U.S. Department of Homeland Security application fee ($14) + application service charge = 7,920 JPY (including tax)
Payment available by credit card or PayPal account.
After you enter your application information, the credit-card payment page will appear. Enter the necessary information to the form on that page.