Do you need an ESTA for a simple transit through the USA?

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Do you need an ESTA for a simple transit through the USA?

ESTA authorization: An alternative to the visa

Created in 2009 by the American authorities, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is the new security method implemented to limit the risks to the security of the American territory. It is basically a document that authorises travel to the United States by plane or ship without the need for a visa.

The ESTA authorization is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Since the 8 September 2010, the ESTA has been payable. Once the application form complete with information has been submitted, the applicant simply has to wait for the response which is generally processed rapidly.


Who needs to apply for ESTA authorization?

Visitors wishing to transmit via the United States, like the holidaymakers and business people, are required to submit an ESTA application form if they are a citizen of one of the Visa Waiver Program member countries.

Although the travel authorization enables visitors to stay for a maximum of 90 days on American territory, those who need to simply stopover in the country also need to present the ESTA document when they arrive at the USA on a flight or ship.  The same procedure applies to children whether they are accompanied or not.


ESTA authorization and entry onto American territory

Although the majority of applicants that obtained their ESTA travel authorization are directly admitted into the United States, the authorization of this application does not automatically grant access to American territory.

It should be emphasized that ESTA authorization is only a supplementary control method enabling immigration officials to identify those who present a risk to American territorial security. Only the authorities at the port or airport have the necessary authority to admit each visitor into the country.


Information and the submission deadline for an ESTA application

In principle, the ESTA travel authorization can be applied for at any time before departure. However, the United States Department of the Interior recommends that visitors submit their application at least 72 hours before departure. Uniquely processed through the Internet via websites authorised by the American administration, this procedure is normally fairly rapid.

To complete this application you will need to provide certain information. At the top of the application form it requires the name, date of birth and passport details of the applicant. Information concerning the travel planned such as the name of the airline, the destination, flight number etc., are also requested.  Finally questions related to the admission conditions of the United States are to be answered on the form: Criminal record, convictions, arrests, contagious illnesses, travel ban, visa cancellation…


Period of validity for an ESTA authorization

An ESTA authorization is valid for two years. Those who benefit from ESTA authorization (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) can visit the United States as many times as they wish without having to renew their ESTA unless their passport expires before the end of this period as noted by the Visa Waiver Program.


How to apply for an ESTA to transit through the USA?

If you plan to travel via the USA shortly for a transit or stopover then you will need to apply for an ESTA, or a visa if you do not have a biometric or electronic passport or you are not a citizen of one of the program member countries.

To do so, you simply need to access an ESTA application form, choosing one available in your language such as that on our website, taking care to ensure that you have your valid passport number with you. This passport should be current at the time of application and indeed for the visit itself. You will also need a valid credit card with you to pay for the transfer and processing fees and costs for your application.

You should then complete the application form carefully, replying honestly and truthfully to all questions asked and omitting no important information. You may make a collective or group application if you travel as a family or with friends to facilitate your travel preparations. Do not forget to state a valid email address which will be used to send the email response as to whether your ESTA application has been accepted or not.

You will receive a response to your application, either positive or negative, by email within 72 hours maximum. If your ESTA is granted then you can transit through the United States and also use this authorisation for any other visits to the USA or transits through the USA during a period of two years following your approval.

In the case of a refusal, you unfortunately cannot transit through the USA and will be obliged either to apply for a traditional visa or transit through another country by changing your travel plans.