How much should an ESTA cost?
The fee per ESTA application is the same for all applicants, whether child, student, travel group or pensioner. In 2010, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security set a fee of 14 USD when introducing the ESTA Visa Waiver Program. This fee consists of a 4 USD processing fee and a 10 USD approval fee. Payment is made in advance, i.e. after entering the requested personal data in the online form, the fee is due before processing the ESTA application. If the ESTA application is rejected, only the fee of 4 USD will be due, as 10 USD will only be charged after successful approval. Intermediaries, i.e. providers or companies who support applicants in obtaining a valid ESTA, also charge a service fee. This varies significantly between vendors and can range from USD 25 to USD 90 plus per ESTA application. If you are using an agent or visa service provider, you should check carefully which additional fees are in addition to the official USD 14 of the US Department of Homeland Security, as additional costs of USD 200 can be very significant for a family of four and reduces the vacation budget.
The ESTA fees are usually paid by credit card. Cost-sensitive applicants should therefore check whether the personal credit card provider charges additional fees for payment in USD. As an alternative to credit card payment, payment can also be made via PayPal.
If an existing ESTA application is updated, for example if the address in the USA has changed again, no additional fees will be charged. However, the free of charge update cannot be processed if passport details (passport number or expiration date) or personal data such as name, date of birth or place of birth needed to be corrected. In this case, a new ESTA application must be submitted for 14 USD, which will usually be approved. A new application overwrites the old ESTA registration, i.e. there can be no confusion or misunderstanding at the immigration desk when entering the country.
If the applicant does not have a credit card or PayPal, it is also possible to pay with the credit card of a third party, e.g. a travel agency, acquaintances or relatives of the applicant.