Understanding USA Visa Application Fees for South Koreans

The United States is an enthralling destination known for its diverse landscapes, vibrant cities, and the promise of the American Dream. South Koreans, among visitors from various nations, have long been drawn to the U.S. for tourism, business, and educational opportunities. From the buzzing streets of New York City to the serene beaches of California, the U.S. offers an array of experiences to suit any traveler’s desires.

As a South Korean national planning a trip to the U.S., understanding the visa application process, including fees and requirements, is essential. For those eligible, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) presents a more streamlined and cost-effective approach than a traditional visa. In this article, we will focus on the key aspects of U.S. visa application fees and the ESTA process for South Koreans.

Understanding the ESTA for South Korean Citizens

Before delving into the costs associated with traveling to the U.S., it’s important to distinguish between a visa and the ESTA. South Korea is one of the VWP VWP Countries, which means its citizens can apply for an ESTA instead of a visa for short-term visits of 90 days or less. This is applicable for tourism, certain types of business visits, and transit through the United States.

The ESTA is not only more convenient but also less expensive than a traditional visa. It’s an online authorization system that assesses the eligibility of visitors to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It is important to note that an ESTA is not a visa; it is a travel authorization.

ESTA Application Fees for South Korean Nationals

When applying for an ESTA, South Korean nationals are required to pay a fee. The process is relatively simple and can be done entirely online. Here are the steps and costs involved:

  • Fill out the online application form. The form is straightforward and takes roughly 10 minutes to complete. You will need your passport information handy.
  • Submit and pay for your application. The costs can be covered using various payment methods, including PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Credit Card.
  • After submission, you will receive your ESTA via email within 72 hours. This travel authorization will permit you to travel to the U.S.

For South Korean travelers needing their approved travel authorization sooner, expedited processing options are available at checkout.

Comparing ESTA Fees to Visa Fees

It is important to note that ESTA fees are generally lower than traditional U.S. visa fees. While visa fees can vary depending on the type of visa being applied for, the non-refundable visa application fee for most nonimmigrant visa categories is currently $160. This fee applies to tourist, business, student, and exchange visas. On the other hand, the ESTA fee is significantly less and is paid directly during the online application process.

South Korean citizens may still need to apply for a visa if they intend to stay for more than 90 days, work, study, or engage in other activities not covered by the VWP. In such cases, they will need to apply for the appropriate visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and pay the associated fees.

Benefits of Applying for an ESTA

For eligible South Korean travelers, obtaining an ESTA provides a host of benefits, including:

  • Convenience: The application is fully online, eliminating the need for in-person embassy visits.
  • Cost-effective: Lower fees compared to traditional U.S. visa applications.
  • Quick Processing: ESTA approvals are typically granted within 72 hours of application submission.
  • Multiple Entries: If approved, an ESTA is valid for two years or until the passport expires, allowing for multiple short visits to the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the ESTA application fee refundable?

No, the ESTA application fee is non-refundable, even if the authorization is not granted or if the application is withdrawn.

How long before my trip should I apply for an ESTA?

It is recommended to apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before departure. However, it is advisable to apply as soon as you begin planning your trip to the United States.

What happens after my ESTA expires?

Once your ESTA expires, you will need to reapply for a new authorization before traveling to the U.S. again. This involves completing a new online application process and paying the associated fee.

Can I extend my stay in the U.S. beyond 90 days with an ESTA?

No, the ESTA does not allow for extensions of stay beyond the 90-day limit. If you wish to stay longer, you will need to apply for the appropriate visa type that corresponds to your reasons for an extended stay.


For South Korean citizens, understanding the costs and process of obtaining the right travel authorization is crucial for a hassle-free entry into the United States. The ESTA offers a convenient and cost-effective solution for those planning short visits. By ensuring compliance with the ESTA requirements, South Koreans can enjoy the rich tapestry of American culture and opportunity without the complications of a traditional visa application process. Remember, always apply for your ESTA through trusted channels and well ahead of your intended travel date to ensure a smooth journey to the U.S.

Share this...