South Korean citizens can apply for an ESTA
South Korea joined the Visa Waiver Program in 2008
South Korea is an active member of the Visa Waiver Program
➤ ESTA is for visits of less than 90 days
➤ Travelers arriving by air or sea require an ESTA
➤ Valid electronic and machine readable passport is required
➤ ESTA is for tourism, business, transit, medical, or transit purposes
➤ A separate ESTA application is required per infant, child, teen or adult traveler
South Korean citizens can apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) visa waiver to travel to the United States. The ESTA allows citizens of South Korea to visit the U.S. for tourism, business, transit, medical and short study purposes without a visa for up to 90 days per visit. South Korea was added to the Visa Waiver Program in 2008. However, security measures, intended to address terrorism threats, have necessitated the pre-screening of travelers prior their arrival to the United States.
The ESTA was established in 2009 for the purposes of streamlining the processing of visa waiver applicants and to provide U.S. Customs and Border Protection, as well as the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the capability to pre-screen travelers against numerous no-fly, criminal, and terrorist list databases. Thus, since 2009 South Korean citizens have been required to obtain an approved ESTA application to enter the United States. However, in the instance an South Korean citizen is denied or ineligible for ESTA, or wishes to visit the United States for more than 90 days or for other travel purposes than those allowed under ESTA, then the South Korean passport holder would need to apply for the relevant U.S. visa.
South Korean citizens must apply online for ESTA. An ESTA is required prior to boarding the air or sea vessel to the United States, and should be applied for at least 72 hours before departure. A valid, un-expired electronic passport must be used for the ESTA application. Applicants can review the detailed ESTA requirements as well as visit the ESTA FAQ for more information before starting on their ESTA application.
An approved ESTA application does not provide an South Korean citizen the same level of rights as a U.S. visa holder. A U.S. visa applicant will need to file a more comprehensive application form, called the DS-160 and attend an interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy. Furthermore, depending on the type of visa, applicants may need to prepare additional documents to prove the genuineness of their U.S. travel plans and purposes before entering the country.