ESTA or Visa: Understanding the Best Option for Icelandic Travelers to the USA

For Icelandic travelers contemplating an adventure to the USA, understanding the difference between an ESTA and a visa is crucial for a smooth entry experience. The United States, with its vast landscapes, iconic cities and rich cultural tapestry, is a travel destination that beckons explorers from the land of ice and fire. From the yellow cabs of New York City to the sun-soaked shores of California, there is an endless array of experiences waiting for you.

Embarking on a journey to the US requires some planning, especially when it comes to the necessary travel authorizations. The key to a hassle-free trip is to determine whether you need an ESTA or a visa. This article will guide you through the details of each, helping you understand which travel authorization is right for your visit to the United States.

What is an ESTA?

An ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It’s not a visa, but a pre-authorization to board a carrier bound for the US. This system streamlines the entry process for citizens from VWP countries, including Iceland. An approved ESTA is required for both air and sea travel but is not necessary for land border crossings.

What is a Visa?

A visa is an endorsement on a passport indicating that the holder has applied for permission to enter the United States and that the application has been reviewed and approved by a U.S. consular officer. Visas come in various types to cater to different travel purposes, such as tourism, business, study, and work. The process for obtaining a U.S. visa typically involves a more detailed application and an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

ESTA or Visa: Which One Do Icelandic Travelers Need?

If you’re an Icelandic national, deciding between an ESTA or a visa comes down to the purpose and duration of your stay. As Iceland is one of the VWP countries, its citizens are generally eligible to apply for an ESTA for short-term visits—90 days or less—for tourism, certain types of business meetings, or while in transit through the U.S. An ESTA is beneficial for its convenience, as it’s obtained online, and you typically receive a response within 72 hours.

If, however, you plan to stay for more than 90 days, study, work, or engage in activities not covered by the VWP, you will need to apply for the appropriate visa. In such cases, the process is more extensive and requires a scheduled appointment at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik.

How to Apply for an ESTA

Applying for an ESTA is a straightforward process. Here’s how you can get your travel authorization started:

  1. Fill out our easy-to-use online application form. The application takes about 10 minutes. Make sure to have your passport handy.
  2. Submit & Pay for your application. We accept all payment types. PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay & Credit Card.
  3. Get your ESTA emailed to you within 72hrs. We’ll email you your approved travel authorization and that’s it, you’re ready to go!

If you need your ESTA in a hurry, you can choose from our two expedited processing options. Simply select your add-on at checkout.

ESTA Expiration and Updates

An ESTA is valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. During its validity, you can make multiple trips to the US without having to reapply, as long as each visit is 90 days or less. However, it’s important to keep your ESTA information up-to-date. If your passport details change or you need to update your travel plans, you should ensure your ESTA reflects these changes to avoid any issues at U.S. customs and immigration.


For Icelandic travelers, obtaining an ESTA is a convenient and efficient way to enjoy the wonders of the United States. Whether chasing the bright lights of Broadway or exploring the serene landscapes of the Grand Canyon, an approved ESTA lets you experience the diverse attractions this vast country has to offer. Remember to plan ahead, apply for your ESTA in good time, and ensure all your travel documents are in order for a seamless travel experience.

ESTA vs Visa for Icelandic Travelers to USA: Frequently Asked Questions

  • Do Icelandic citizens need a visa for the USA?
    Icelandic citizens do not need a visa for short visits (90 days or less) to the USA if they have an approved ESTA under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Can I work in the USA with an ESTA?
    No, an ESTA does not authorize you to work in the USA. You would need to apply for the appropriate work visa.
  • How far in advance of my trip should I apply for an ESTA?
    It is recommended to apply for your ESTA at least 72 hours before your travel, but it is best to apply as soon as you start planning your trip.
  • What if my ESTA application is denied?
    If your ESTA application is denied, you may need to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik.

If you’ve got any questions or require further information about obtaining your travel authorization, do not hesitate to get in touch with us. Safe travels, and enjoy your trip to the USA!

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