Visa Waiver Program (ESTA)
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Maltese citizens are now eligible to travel to the United States without a visa. Please consult our information on the Visa Waiver Program before deciding whether or not you should apply for a visa. The Embassy will not issue a refund to any person who pays the non-refundable visa application fee and later decides to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.
Effective December 30, 2008, Maltese citizens are eligible to travel to the U.S. without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program if the following conditions are met:
- The visit is less than 90 days
- The visit is for tourism or business
- The traveler holds a valid biometric passport
- The traveler registers for and receives an approved travel authorization, or ESTA, by entering their travel details at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/ prior to commencing travel
- The traveler has a valid return ticket
- The traveler has not been convicted of a crime
- If arriving by land, the traveler must complete and sign Form I-94W
(Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form), available at each border crossing, and pay the land border fee, currently USD $6.00 (payable only in U.S. dollars). An approved ESTA is not required when entering the U.S. at a land border crossing.
Travelers from Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, including Malta, are required to pay a fee of $14.00 when applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This is not a visa fee; rather $4.00 will be for the recovery of the administrative costs incurred by CBP for ESTA. The remaining $10 is a travel promotion fee designated by the Travel Promotion Act (TPA).
ESTA is a mandatory electronic travel authorization that all nationals traveling under the VWP must obtain prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States. This travel authorization has been mandatory since Jan. 12, 2009.
ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. Once approved, authorizations are generally valid for multiple entries into the U.S. for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires. Travelers with new passports and re-applying for an ESTA must pay the ESTA fee of €11. To see the full CBP press release concerning the new ESTA fee, see this page. For more information about ESTA, please visit www.cbp.gov/ESTA.
Travelers who plan to study, work or remain more than 90 days in the United States are not eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and must be in possession of a valid U.S. visa before commencing their travel.
In addition, Maltese citizens who do not have a biometric passport may continue to travel to the United States if they are in possession of a valid U.S. visa.
If you have questions about the Visa Waiver Program, please contact the consular section at ConsularMalta@state.gov.
Additional Information about the Visa Waiver Program:
Video: ESTA - Get It and Go, by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security - wmv, 6.3 MB
(in English with English captions)
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a biometric passport?
Biometric passports are easily recognizable by the international biometric passport symbol that appears on their cover (see illustration below). Malta began issuing biometric passports in October 2008. Any passport that was issued before that date is not a biometric passport and is not valid for travel under the Visa Waiver Program. For information about how to apply for a biometric passport, please visit the website of the Maltese Passports Office. Please note that obtaining a new biometric passport is less expensive than applying for a visa and usually takes only four working days to process.
What information is needed to apply for ESTA?
The traveler must provide biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information, as well as answers to questions regarding eligibility to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. This is the same information that was previously asked on the I-94W immigration form distributed on flights to the U.S. A friend, relative, travel agent, or another third party may file an application on your behalf, but each traveler is responsible for the truthfulness and accuracy of all information submitted on his or her behalf.
When should I apply?
Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, but travelers are encouraged to apply a minimum of 72 hours before their intended travel date. While the ESTA web site will provide an immediate answer in most cases, some ESTA decisions may take up to 72 hours to process.
How long is my travel authorization valid?
Travel authorizations are generally valid for two years, or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. A visitor may travel to the U.S. repeatedly within the validity period without applying for a new ESTA.
Do I ever need to reapply for travel authorization through the ESTA?
Yes, there are instances when a new travel authorization via ESTA would be required. If you have:
- acquired a new passport
- had a change in name, gender, or citizenship
- if the answers to any of the “yes or no” ESTA questions have changed a new application must be submitted. Applicants may also update information about their travel plans if they change after their ESTA has been approved, although this information is optional.
What are the possible responses I may receive?
Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.
Travel Not Authorized: Traveler must obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the U.S.
Authorization Pending: Traveler will need to check the ESTA Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.
Do I need to bring a paper printout of my ESTA approval to the airport?
No, although you may wish to print out the ESTA application response in order to maintain a record of your ESTA application number.
What should I do if I am denied a travel authorization?
If an application for travel authorization is denied and the traveler wishes to continue with the trip, he/she will be required to apply for a visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Can I enter the U.S. at a land border crossing from Canada or Mexico using the VWP?
Yes. If you enter at a land border crossing you must complete and sign the Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form, and pay the land border fee, currently USD $6.00 (payable only in U.S. dollars). In addition, you must satisfy the immigration officer that you have funds to support yourself during your stay and to depart the United States. An approved ESTA is not required. For more information see CPBs page about arriving at U.S. Land Borders.
If I enter the U.S. using the VWP, can I make a side trip to Canada or Mexico?
Yes. You may be readmitted to the U.S. under the VWP after a side trip to Canada or Mexico (or adjacent islands*), but you will only be admitted for the balance of your original admission period. In other words, the total amount of time between your initial entry to the U.S. and your final exit from the U.S. – including time spent on a side trip to Canada or Mexico – cannot exceed 90 days. When re-entering the U.S., you must show evidence of the date of your initial entry into the U.S., such as a passport stamp.
* The term “adjacent islands” refers to the islands of Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, and Turks and Caicos Islands, as well as any other British, French or Netherlands territory or possession bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
Issues at U.S. Port of Entry
- No one collected my I-94 card when I departed the United States
- Difference between visa and authorized length of stay
- My name mistakenly seems to be on a lookout list or Watchlist of some sort and I have trouble at the port of entry when I travel to the U.S.
- Reporting complaints about ports of entry
No one collected my I-94 card when I departed the United States
If you returned home with your Department of Homeland Security Form I-94 (white) or Form I-94W (green) Departure Record in your passport, it means that your departure was not recorded properly. It is your responsibility to correct this record. You must provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) sufficient information so your timely departure from the United States can be recorded. This will close out your earlier record of arrival to the U.S.
If you do not validate a timely departure from the United States, CBP may conclude that you remained in the U.S. beyond your authorized stay. If this happens, the next time you apply to enter the U.S. your visa may be subject to cancellation or you may be immediately returned to your foreign point of origin.
In particular, visitors who remain beyond their permitted stay in the USA under the Visa Waiver Program cannot reenter the U.S. in the future without obtaining a visa from a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If this occurs and you arrive at a U.S. port of entry seeking admission under the Visa Waiver Program without a visa, CBP Officers may order your immediate return to a foreign point of origin.
If you failed to turn in your I-94 Departure Record, please send it, along with any documentation that proves you left the United States to:
ACS – CBP SBU
1084 South Laurel Road
London, KY 40744
Do not mail your Form I-94 Departure Record or supporting information to any U.S. Consulate or Embassy, to any other CBP office in the United States, or to any address other than the one shown above. Only at this location are we able to make the necessary corrections to CBP records to prevent inconvenience to you in the future.
To validate departure, CBP will consider a variety of information, included but not limited to:
- Original boarding passes you used to depart the United States
- Photocopies of entry or departure stamps in your passport indicating entry to another country after you departed the United states (you should copy all passport pages that are not completely blank, and include the biographical page containing your photograph); and
- Photocopies of other supporting evidence, such as:
- Dated pay slips or vouchers from your employer to indicate you worked in another country after you departed the United States,
- Dated bank records showing transactions to indicate you were in another country after you left the United States,
- School records showing attendance at a school outside the United States to indicate you were in another country after you left the United States,
- Dated credit card receipts, showing your name, but the credit card number deleted, for purchases you made to indicate you were in another country after you left the United States,
- To assist us in understanding the situation and correct your records quickly, please include an explanation letter in English. Your statement will not be acceptable without supporting evidence such as noted above. You must mail legible copies or original materials where possible. If you send original materials, you should retain a copy. CBP cannot return original materials after processing.
We strongly urge you to keep a copy of what you send to ACS-CBP and carry it with you the next time you come to the United States in case the CBP officer has any questions about your eligibility to enter.
If taking short trips (30 days or less) to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands during the course of your visit to the U.S., hold on to your I-94 or I-94W,=. It should only be turned in when you leave the U.S. to return home.
Delays beyond the traveler’s control, such as cancelled or delayed flights, medical emergencies requiring a doctor’s care, etc., are not considered unauthorized overstays. However, you will need to bring proof of the cause of your overstay the next time you travel to the U.S. in order for it to be forgiven. For airline delays, ask the airline for a letter affirming the delay or a copy of your cancelled boarding pass.
Difference between visa validity and authorized length of stay
A visa is a travel document. The visa expiration date is the date by which the bearer must ENTER the United States and does not control the date of departure or length of stay in the U.S. The length of stay and date of departure are determined by the Immigration officer at the time of arrival in the United States. A departure date may be greater than the visa expiration date. At the time of entry, the Immigration officer will set a departure date. This date will be recorded on the Form I-94 Departure Card and passport entry stamp.
For additional information on types of visas and permitted lengths of stays, please review the information provided on this website.
My name mistakenly seems to be on a lookout list or watch list and I have trouble at the port of entry when I travel to the U.S.
On occasion, we receive complaints from foreign travelers about their treatment at ports of entry as the result of lookouts, some of which also generate Transportation Security Administration (TSA) “no fly” alerts. Passengers may be delayed or denied boarding, miss flights, or be sent to secondary screening, or even detained until these are resolved. With the frequency of name duplication, the problem is likely to continue. The Embassy and the Department of State have neither the authority nor the resources to intervene. However, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has a redress process for reviewing the request of an individual traveler to be clearly identified as not the target of the lookout.
Travelers can request an audit of their case by completing and signing the redress request form located at http://www.dhs.gov/trip and following the website instructions for submitting it to DHS.
I would like to report a negative experience at a U.S. port of entry
U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has authority over the ports of entry in the United States. CBP strives to provide professional and courteous treatment to all people entering the United States. If you have a complaint regarding your treatment by a CBP official, please direct your comments in writing to:
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Assistant Commission, OFO
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20029
You may also fax your comments to: 202-344-2791 or email them to: http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cgov/border_security/.