What is the ESTA ?

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What is the ESTA ?

The ESTA: An infallible security system

The date 12 January 2009 marked the implementation of the ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorization, in the United States. It thereby became the responsibility of holidaymakers and business travellers to supply certain information over the internet relating to their destination, the length of their stay and the reason for the same.

This procedure, initiated by the American authorities is founded on the principle of security above all. The information supplied to the database of the ESTA website enables them to analyse the profile of each visitor in advance to prevent possible acts of terrorism or other actions dangerous to American society.

The information is extremely secure due to a surveillance system. The implemented approach also prevents hacking attempts or fraudulent use of the information.


Who should proceed with an authorization application?

People who come from any of the 22 European member countries of the Visa Waiver Program as well as those from one of the 5 Asiatic countries are affected by this change. The ESTA application is obligatory for all individuals, regardless of gender or age, major or minor, accompanied or not. An ESTA is also required for each individual person. To obtain this authorisation you need to complete the ESTA application form that can be found here.

This authorization application should also be submitted by visitors planning to visit American territory in transit by plane or ship. Entering by road is exempt. The ESTA is, in this case, replaced by identification controls at the borders. Therefore, those who enter the United States by car from Canada for example are not required to present a visit authorization.

The ESTA enables, among other things, tourist visits or business trips of less than 90 days. An application for a visa should be completed prior to visits exceeding this period.


Authorization of admission to American territory

The 72 hour waiting period for a response is essential as analysing each application, case by case, can take a long time thereby requiring a reasonable margin. In the majority of cases the response is immediate, authorising departures at the last minute. If the travel is not authorised then a temporary visa application will be necessary.

The consular service at an American Embassy will assist with all formalities necessary for this. The pending authorisations require a continued monitoring of the status on the ESTA website.  The definitive response is given within 72 hours. However the application can be completed at any time, even if the details of your planned visit to the United States are still undefined.

The travel authorization is valid for two years as from the validation date or less, if the passport expires before. The applicant thereby benefits from an authorisation for multiple entries. The possession of an ESTA document however does not automatically guarantee entry at the border points. This official document essentially authorises the boarding onto a flight or ship bound for the United States. The immigration officer at the border post is the only person of the administrative body that has the power to announce its validity. The ESTA authorization application is payable since September 2010.