Electronic System for Travel Authorization Law and Legal Definition

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization or the ESTA is an automated system that decides the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA is not needed when arriving by land from Canada or Mexico. The ESTA application collects the same information that a Form I-94W collects.

The ESTA is only an approved authorization to travel, and is not an American tourist visa. The ESTA provides travelers from Visa Waiver Program countries with an authorization to enter the U.S. on a short-stay visit for the purposes of business or tourism. However, it does not meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a USA visa.