difference between us visa and us esta

Publish Date -

Planning a trip to the United States soon? Do you know that there's a huge difference between US visa and US ESTA? Before applying for a US visa or US ESTA, you should know for which one you are actually eligible. You also need to turn about all the different requirements, application processes and other details for both of these. 

With Tourist Visa Online you can get to learn about all the different types of US visas and US ESTA in this article or you can read about all the different prospects of the US visa policy and US ESTA separately on our website.  Now get your concept cleared up about the differences between US visa and US ESTA.


  • Definition of US Visa & US ESTA
  • Different Requirements
  • Basic Differences
  • FAQs 

Definition of US Visa & US ESTA:

First, you need to know about what the US visa and US ESTA actually are! 

US Visa:​ The Government and Foreign Affairs of the United States had introduced the United States visa policy and according to that all the foreigners need to obtain a valid visa and passport to enter into the US except the visa-exempt countries. 

There are various types of US visas, applicable for each purpose of the travellers to visit this country. Generally, these visas come with a validity of 2-10 years and stay the duration of 90-180 days per each entry with single or multiple entries. But all these vary on the US visa types.

US ESTA:​ ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is only applicable for the 39 eligible countries under the Visa Waiver Program. The citizens of these countries don't require any visa to enter the United States but only if they are travelling via air or sea, not by land.

ESTA also costs the same as a visa but it gives more facilities than the visa. It is not divided into any specific types. It comes with a validity of 2 years with multiple entries. One can stay up to 90 days for each entry. 


Read Also: US Visa Application Status How To Check Your Visa Status Online


Different Requirements​:

Though all the basic requirements are almost the same for both the US visa and US ESTA, there are still some differences you must acknowledge. 

US ESTA Requirements:​ The main important documents that an ESTA applicant needs to provide, are: 

  • Valid Passport with a minimum validity of 6 months or more from the span of your journey.
  • Email Address.
  • Proper identity card with photo id proof, as evidence to prove that you actually belong from an eligible vwp country.
  • Credit or Debit card.
  • Few recent photographs 

The applicant also needs to provide various personal information and answer many security questions on the interview and while applying for the US ESTA. And via your provided email id, you will get informed about your ESTA approval or denial.

US Visa Requirements:

US Visa requirements generally depend on the type of visa you have applied for. Basic requirements are: 

  • A completely filled out DS 160 application form.
  • Valid Passport with a minimum validity of 6 months or more from the span of your journey. (It's same as ESTA)
  • Visa payment receipt
  • The previous US visas
  • Personal documents like Birth certificate, marriage certificate etc.
  • Last six months bank statements and tax return files
  • Recent photographs
  • Employment proof
  • Educational qualification proofs
  • Identity Card and so on. 

So these are some US visa requirements that differ the US visa from US ESTA. 


Read Also: US Esta Visa Application Process


Basic Differences:

There are some basic differences between the US ESTA and the US visa. Let's have a look! 

Guarantee of admission:​ An ESTA application doesn't guarantee your admission to the United States. Even after the final interview or even at your arrival your ESTA application can get denied. A US visa also doesn't guarantee your admission, but in this case, the risk of denial is far less. As the visa application undergoes so many stages and administrative processing, that there is really less chance for a US visa to get denied.

Validity period:​ The US ESTA comes with a validity of 2 years and the traveller can stay up to 90 days per entry in the US. But the US visa validity depends on the type of visa. But one gets a validity up to 10 years and 180 days stay duration on each entry.

A number of entries:​ Generally both the visa and the ESTA comes with multiple entries.

Fees:​ The fees of the visa and the ESTA actually are the same but varies as per the websites and situations. With Tourist Visa Online you can easily get the visa or the ESTA at a very reasonable rate. You just have to pay around 65.0 US dollars which includes all the visa fee, service fee and other charges.

Extension or Renewal:​ The US ESTA can not be extended or renewed. Once it expires, you have to leave the country and apply for a new one to return back here. But if you overstay than 90 days, you will get banned from entering the US for the next three years. But in the case of visas, you can apply for the renewal and some visa types give you the opportunity to extend its validity for a certain period of time. 


Q. Can my US visa overstay be forgiven? 

Ans.​ Yes, only in some cases the US visa overstay can be forgiven. If you are able to show any proper reason for your overstay, like any medical issues, family emergency or any other critical urgency where you are totally unable to leave the country or go for a valid extension of renewal. 

Q. When should one go for a US ESTA?

Ans.​ Only if the applicant is a citizen of one of the eligible Visa Waiver Program countries and if she/he is travelling to the US by any airline or ship, they don't have any other option than to go for an ESTA. But if you are travelling via land or if you are not from any VWP country, you don't need to obtain an ESTA, rather you should go for a US visa. 

For any US traveller, it's really important to know about the differences between the US visa and US ESTA and which one is applicable for his purpose of visiting the United States. 

100% Lowest Visa Fee

No need to visit embassy or consulates,save your money when applying with us !

Express Visa Services

Get E visa in less than 48 hours

Track Visa Status Online

Track your visa online by providing your visa reference number

100% secure payment

We process our visa fee through highly secured payment gate ways