Maybe you have already heard about the ESTA programme that enables you to visit the United States under certain conditions for a period not exceeding three months and which avoids the long wait for a visa. But if you already used this system several years ago and were able to complete the application procedure free of charge you may be surprised to learn that now it is payable. In fact, since 2010 an applicant is required to pay certain fees and costs to obtain an ESTA, or at least to apply for this travel authorisation online. So why do you have to pay for this authorisation now and what is the price of the official ESTA document? This is what we will examine in this article with detailed explanations on the price of this travel authorisation, what the price actually covers and the methods of payment available on the websites that offer this online application service.
ESTA USA cost: Key points
- The US government fee for ESTA authorisation is currently $21.
- Service and processing fees are added to this fee, costing between €40 and €60.
- The price of the USA ESTA may be higher for urgent requests.
The reasons why an ESTA authorisation application is payable now:
As we quickly mentioned in the introduction, the ESTA application became payable in 2010 whereas previously it was free. So why did this change occur?
Firstly, this change to a payable formula was decided by the American government which is the only administrative body responsible for processing the ESTA applications and this is due to an increasing number of requests. In fact, when the ESTA system was originally implemented only the citizens of a few select countries could benefit which of course greatly limited the number of applications. Nowadays, 39 countries are members of this programme which has had a major impact on the number of authorisation applications submitted.
As the ESTA programme is an entirely online procedure, great dematerialised and automatic to a high degree, this means that it uses less paper and agents than the classic visa procedure even though each application is still checked manually by an official as with any administrative procedure. It is of course necessary to pay for these officials; a major cost for the American government. And therefore these fees also serve in partly financing the American immigration system which is also responsible for border controls.
Another thing, the fact of making the system payable has assisted in fighting fraud and identity abuse, issues that have been occurred in the past. Payment by credit or debit card through a secure system also notably tends to dissuade those with ill-intentions who may try to steal your passport or use its number to illegally obtain entry to the USA or simply try to distress you by applying in your place in such a way that the application is refused and you cannot visit the United States if you wished to do so.
It should also be noted here that the administrative costs of your ESTA application can vary depending on your country of residence.
How much does it cost for an ESTA authorisation?
If you are from the United Kingdom and you plan to visit the United States sometime over the coming months then the price of your ESTA application will be $21 on the official American government website and 67€ per visitor if you use a website that offers a full ESTA application service including customer assistance and data correction. The payment of this fee is completed online, directly on the website where you submit your authorisation application, using the authorised methods of payment such as credit card or the online payment system, PayPal.
The transactions completed in this manner are of course completely secure and there is no risk when passing through the site of our partner that works with the American authorities with the advantages of detailed explanations and the form available in a number of languages.
Once you have completed the online payment you will receive a confirmation email and another email with your authorisation attached. You then simply need to print this authorisation that is valid for two years.
The authorised payment methods and their security:
As we quickly mentioned previously, payment of your ESTA application costs and fees can only be completed online on the website you use to complete your application. In fact, the ESTA visa waiver programme is an entirely electronic or digital system that only works in a paper free manner. It is therefore only logical that the payment is also completed online.
The most frequently used method of payment by ESTA applicants is the credit or debit card but it is also possible to pay using your PayPal or other digital online financial account that is accepted by the ESTA services website you have chosen. These websites do not authorise payment in the form of cash or cheque because of practical reasons, primarily because of possible long delays in the clearance of payment. The time delay in receiving cash or processing a cheque would take too much time relative to the guaranteed maximum ESTA processing time of 72 hours.
Some people who do not have a credit or debit card, or an online financial account such as PayPal, wonder how they can pay for their online ESTA application. In this situation there are solutions available such as asking your bank for a single use debit card number or a prepaid debit card that can be recharged by cash or bank transfer.
Therefore the only methods of payment available for the payment of an ESTA application are electronic or digital and some people worry about the security of such payment methods on the websites that work with the ESTA system. Although we cannot speak for all the websites who provide this service we can assure you that our partner offers a totally secure service for your ESTA payment transactions. When you make your payment online this will be completed through a secure server which can be verified by you through the ‘https’ preceding the url in the browser address bar and the presence of a small padlock logo. On the secure server all the information you enter regarding your payment details will be encrypted, including the information relating to your credit or debit card, this ensures that you are protected against hacking or fraud. Your card will be debited only once for the exact amount stated, totally problem and risk free.
It should also be noted that the majority of credit and debit cards currently available on the market also incorporate an advanced security feature. Using this system a manual confirmation of your authorisation to complete the transaction is required. You will therefore be redirected during your transaction to a specific secure web page where you will be required to enter a one off code received by SMS or visit a particular web page generated by your bank to confirm the payment. The payment will not be completed without this confirmation. In this way you risk nothing by paying online for your ESTA.
Of course it is extremely important that this payment is completed online, in fact it is the only way to complete the payment and thereby confirm and submit your ESTA application. Your file will in fact not be transferred to the American authorities responsible for studying and issuing these authorisations if these fees are not paid and debited from your bank account.
Which currencies are accepted for paying the online ESTA application?
As we previously noted, the ESTA applications incur an online obligatory payment of the costs and fees engendered. This brings us to the question of the currency in which these costs are paid. In fact, as the ESTA is a programme managed by the United States certain people wonder if it is necessary to pay for this document in U.S. dollars.
In reality this is not really an issue as you can pay these costs and fees in any currency, including that of your home country such as the British Pound, and without paying any currency exchange fees or other supplementary costs. In fact the price of your ESTA application will not be indicated in U.S. dollars but in your home currency which depends on your country of residence. This is why the form you access online will also be in your own language. The aim is to make the process as simple as possible to apply for your travel authorisation to the USA and not complicate it unnecessarily with language or currency exchange issues. Even more so as sometimes banks and other financial institutions can invoice supplementary fees or costs for currency exchange relating to online payments.
To ensure that your application is processed within the time stated, the website where you complete your payment is responsible for transferring the required amount in dollars to the American authorities responsible for processing your application in a transparent manner.
Is it possible to benefit from a price reduction or special rate for an ESTA?
With certain administrative procedures it is possible to benefit from special prices related to particular cases such as for example large families, children, pensioners, handicapped or disabled people or those with a low income. However, for an ESTA application, the price is the same whatever your situation.
There is in fact no reduction possible on the price to pay to obtain an ESTA travel authorisation to the United States. The price payable per visitor is therefore fixed, even if you apply as part of a group for a family visit for example.
How to know if the payment of the costs has been successfully completed from your account?
Of course, the payment by bank card on the website where you complete your ESTA application will normally lead to an immediate debit on your account. However if you do not receive a confirmation email within 72 hours relating to your application this may be due to an uncompleted payment of the amount due.
For reassurance on this point you may wish to verify your account to ensure that the ESTA payment has actually been debited and noted. In the case to the contrary maybe an error has occurred during the online payment process. Maybe for example you made a mistake when entering your card number or stopped the transaction before it was entirely completed or your account did not have sufficient funds available for the ESTA payment.
If one of these situations concerns you will need to recomplete the ESTA application form online, verify that your account has sufficient funds available, and follow all the steps of the application process attentively right through to the payment confirmation. You will see a message on your screen at the end confirming that your payment has been successfully completed.
Is payment required for completing modifications to my ESTA?
Another case that concerns many visitors who already hold an ESTA authorisation and wish to change certain information in order to reuse it for another visit relates to the payment of the costs and fees for completing these modifications.
As maybe you already know, certain information such as your travel itinerary, the name of your airline company or your email address may be modified after the submission of your travel authorisation.
The good news is that you will have nothing to pay for completing these modifications as they are free of charge.
To be clear, you will not need to pay the costs and fees relating to your ESTA authorisation during its two year validity period if you wish to reuse your authorisation for other visits as long as they correspond with the stated conditions of this programme.
However, apart from the examples that we have just quoted, any other major modification to the information on your ESTA such as a change in name following a wedding or divorce, a change of address, or change of passport number cannot be completed free of charge. You will need to complete a new application by answering all the questions on the online questionnaire and paying the costs and fees once again.
You should know that a renewal of your ESTA authorisation, even if not due to a correction but simply the expiry of your authorisation, requires you to reapply and complete the entire procedure again by completing the online application form and paying the fees and costs. Contrary to certain other official documents your ESTA is not renewed automatically and therefore this procedure must be recompleted manually as if it was your first application.
Where to find an ESTA application website that offers quality service at a reasonable price?
You have no doubt remarked that there are a number of online service websites offering ESTA authorisation applications and the prices charged are variable, from just a few Euros to several dozen Euros. So why is there so great a difference and how to make a good choice? The difference in price between the different service providers can be explained as follows:
- The rapidity of processing: The most effective websites guarantee the immediate processing of your ESTA authorisation application so you can obtain it as soon as possible, many within just a few hours such as our partner’s website.
- Assistance during the application procedure: Certain websites such as ours offer real time accompaniment and assistance when you complete your ESTA application form online. You therefore have the opportunity to ask advice in real time from a specialist via an online chat as and when necessary. This is an excellent way of ensuring that you do not make any mistakes that could cause a refusal of your application.
- Supplementary services: There again, certain service providers offer you the opportunity to benefit from supplementary services such as sending you a physical copy of your ESTA authorisation if you do not possess a printer and wish to have a paper copy of your travel authorisation.
We have in fact compared the different services available on the market and selected a service provider for you that combines all our criteria for you to complete your ESTA application at a reasonable price with an excellent level of service and outstanding reactivity.
You therefore have the guarantee of completing your application totally risk free with the best chances of obtaining this authorisation that is required to visit the United States legally.
As a web writer and globetrotter with a passion for travel and tourism, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of the procedures that are essential for travellers. I help travellers to complete all the formalities required for a successful trip, particularly when it comes to obtaining a visa online. With several years' experience in this field, I'd like to offer you some valuable advice to help you discover the world with complete peace of mind.