Check if you’re still eligible for an ESTA for the US

Until recently, virtually every Irish national could easily circumvent the US’s visa requirement by applying for an ESTA. This may not be as easy anymore.

Until recently, virtually every Irish national could easily circumvent the US’s visa requirement by applying for an ESTA. However, recent changes mean that many people suddenly find themselves ineligible for this travel permit.

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Visa waiver travel
Ireland is part of a select group of countries whose nationals don’t need a visa to enter the USA. Instead, they can apply for an ESTA online, which is generally approved within a day. Also called an ESTA visa, it allows an individual to stay in the US for up to 90 days per visit, with an overall validity of two years. The ESTA also allows the holder to perform limited business-related activities in the US.

While in theory all Irish nationals are eligible for an ESTA, in practice it can occur that an application is rejected, or to not be able to apply at all. For example, if you were at some point in one of the handful of countries the US deems dangerous, your application has a high chance of being rejected. These countries include Syria, Somalia, Iran and several others. 

Recently, however, the US added Cuba to this list of dangerous countries. This means that anyone who has been to Cuba since January of 2021 is ineligible to apply for an ESTA. This has suddenly made a large number of people unable to apply for one.

How to find out if you’re eligible for an ESTA
The easiest way to find out if you’re still eligible for an ESTA is by closely reading the current
ESTA requirements. In addition to the countries you’ve visited in the past, there are a number of other strict rules applicants must adhere to. However, in some cases, even meeting the ESTA requirements might not be enough. When applying, the ESTA form may state that your passport is “ineligible for visa waiver travel”. This means you can’t apply for an ESTA with your current passport. In some cases this can be remedied by getting a new passport.

In a worst case scenario, your application might be rejected. You will never be told the reason, as the US considers this a matter of national security. If an ESTA application is rejected, it’s no use trying to apply again. Any future applications will be automatically rejected. The US is notoriously strict in this.

Travel to the US without an ESTA
Of course, it’s still possible to travel to the US without an ESTA. The ESTA is simply the easiest and cheapest option. For those that find themselves ineligible, for example because of the recent rule change, there is still the option of applying for a US visa at the embassy in Dublin. However, the waiting times for visa appointments can be quite lengthy, sometimes even as long as several months. That’s why it’s always recommended to first check which travel permits you are eligible for before even booking any flight tickets.

Another issue with visa applications is that you must appear in person for an interview. Since the embassy is in Dublin, this can mean a lengthy trip for some. The benefit of a visa is that it covers a lot more bases than an ESTA, being available to more nationalities and generally being valid for longer than the online travel permit.


Applying for an ESTA via e-visa
The benefit of applying for an ESTA via e-Visa is that you will be notified in advance if you are eligible for an ESTA. This means that you won’t lose out on any time or money by making fruitless applications. Should an ESTA application be rejected for whatever reason, you will be refunded in full and notified that you should not submit any further applications. You will also receive an e-mail with concrete details on how to apply for a US visa to still travel to the US. In addition, e-Visa offers around the clock customer service, both by e-mail and telephone, to assists travellers at any point in their travels.

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