What is ESTA and when is it required?
ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorization – allows travelling to and via the US without a visa.
Non-US passengers flying to or through the US need a valid ESTA in case they don’t have a visa or Green Card (the US residence permit) to the United States.
Who can get an ESTA?
Residents of countries that belong to the Visa Waiver Program can travel with ESTA. Finland is a part of the program, as are most European countries. See the list of the VWP countries here.
In addition, the trip and the passenger must fulfill the following conditions:
- The passenger has a biometric passport with a microchip
- The trip doesn’t last longer than 90 days
- The passenger has a return ticket or a ticket to a connecting international flight
- The airline is part of the Visa Waiver Program
Regardless of age, children need their own ESTA.
Where to get an ESTA and how long does the approval take?
ESTA can be commissioned online from the US Customs and Border Protection. Travel authorization costs 14 dollars and can be paid online.
The approval should arrive without delay. It is, however, recommended to apply at least 72 hours before departure. If ESTA is not approved, the passenger needs a visa from the US embassy.
How long is ESTA valid for? How do I know whether my ESTA is valid?
The travel authorization is valid for two years unless the passenger’s passport expires before that (in which case the ESTA also needs to be renewed). ESTA validity can be checked here.