I am an American citizen, looking to fly to the EU. I am feeling I do not need an ESTA because the wording implies the necessity of the document belongs to non-US citizens. May be an obvious question, but I would like to be sure. I wouldn't want to ruin plans due to a misstep.

  • 5
    possible duplicate of Do I need an ESTA to leave the USA?
    – JonathanReez
    Aug 19, 2015 at 18:08
  • 5
    You don't need an ESTA if you are an American regardless if you are entering or leaving. The guidance says 'international travellers' but it really means 'foreigners who are coming to the US'
    – Gayot Fow
    Aug 19, 2015 at 18:08
  • Several of the flights I have booked have just said I should apply for an ESTA if entering or leaving—no mention of "international travellers."
    – WGroleau
    Feb 17, 2019 at 1:18
  • No ESTA but January 2021 you will need ETIAS for Eurooe. etiasvisa.com/etias-news/etias-europe
    – Sean Banks
    Mar 10, 2019 at 18:39
  • @SeanBanks that site is yet another of the unofficial sites that seek to exploit travelers by pretending to be official and then overcharging them for the so-called "service" of processing their travel authorization application on their behalf. As is common with these sites, its information is obsolete and outdated. Last July, the EU was saying that ETIAS was "expected" to be operational in "early 2021,".
    – phoog
    Mar 10, 2019 at 21:18

1 Answer 1


You are right. The ESTA is needed only for citizens of certain non-US countries who want to visit the US under the Visa Waiver Program.

The US doesn't require authorization, permission or registration for anyone trying to leave the country. And as a US citizen, you also don't need permission to come back, just your passport.

(When you fly back to the US, there is a process called APIS by which your airline will let the US government know who is coming. So your airline will ask for your passport details at some point before your return flight, either at check-in or online. But other than that, no action is required from you.)

  • And when you return to the US, you can do passport control from your smartphone after you land, and then follow the Mobile Passport Control signs to skip the lines and go straight to baggage claim and customs. Aug 19, 2015 at 21:16
  • *"And as a US citizen, you also don't need permission to come back" -- unless you're on the no-fly list: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/No_Fly_List Jan 8, 2017 at 11:12
  • @jpatokal Even then, that's just to fly back. You can come back by land or sea without advance permission.
    – cpast
    Jul 16, 2018 at 15:03

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