Visa Waiver Program

ESTA Scam Warning

Visa applicants are advised to be cautious in all dealings with companies that claim to offer assistance in obtaining U.S. visas.  There are many websites and e-mail scams which attempt to mislead customers and members of the public into thinking they are official U.S. government websites.

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is designed for those seeking to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.  On September 8, 2010, a fee of $14.00 was introduced for Visa Waiver Program Travelers registering under ESTA.  The fee includes $10.00, collected pursuant to the Travel Promotion Act (TPA) and a fee of $4.00 for administering ESTA.  Please note that there is only one official ESTA website and that is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.  Third-party companies who are charging a fee to assist travelers in registering under ESTA are NOT operating on behalf of the U.S. government.

Visa Waiver Program travelers who are looking for information on how to apply for ESTA should be aware that unauthorized third-parties have established Web sites that charge a fee to provide information about ESTA and to submit ESTA applications on behalf of the VWP traveler.  These businesses and Web sites are not endorsed by, associated with, or affiliated in any way with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or the U.S. Government.  These websites are designed to appear legitimate, and though deceptive, they operate legally. U.S. Government Web sites can be identified by “.gov.”

For more information regarding the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, please visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website at: www.cbp.gov/esta

If you have used one of these third party sites, we strongly suggest you use your reference number to confirm the application with the official U.S. Government site (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta) to ensure that your application information is correct in the system, and to avoid delays when you arrive in the United States.

CBP cannot refund the money paid to a third party website, nor can a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.  However, if you think you have been victimized, you can contact your bank or credit card company and dispute the charges on your statement.  Please be aware that if the $14.00 charge submitted to the U.S. government is refunded, the ESTA approval will automatically be denied and future applications may also be denied.

Unfortunately, U.S. Embassies and Consulates are not able to provide details about ESTA denials or resolve the issue that caused the ESTA denial.  If an ESTA clearance was not granted, a U.S. Visa is required to travel to the United States.  Additionally, an ESTA refusal does not necessarily qualify you for an emergency appointment at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy.