The Visa Waiver program
This program has the objective of enabling citizens of a certain number of countries the opportunity of visiting the United States for a maximum of 90 days for touristic, transit or business purposes without the need for a visa. The program is limited to certain specific countries including the United Kingdom and Ireland.
However, travellers from Program member countries should take into account that they are not automatically eligible for this program. But whatever the situation of the traveller, they should complete the procedure for the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel authorisation) authorisation application before trying to enter United States territory.
As an electronic system, ESTA uses computerised data. Internet is the means used for transmitting this data as it negates the need for the applicant to visit the American Embassy. On their arrival on American territory, the traveller is identified and entered into the visitor program of the American Interior Ministry of Security.
Reminder concerning the conditions requisite to obtaining the ESTA:
The ESTA system is aimed at all the citizens of member countries of the programme implemented by the United States. However it is imperative that the applicant fulfils certain conditions to be able to benefit. Here are the conditions in detail:
- As stated above, firstly the applicant should be a citizen of one of the member countries of this programme.
- The visit concerned should not exceed 90 days on American territory. However it also concerns transit visits and stopovers in the USA.
- The visitor must hold a biometric or electronic passport.
- The travel authorisation should be validated after the submission of an application form such as the one you can find on our website.
Once obtained, this ESTA authorisation is valid for a period of two years and therefore for all visits to the United States respecting these conditions during this period.
Is the United Kingdom part of the ESTA programme?
The United Kingdom is clearly and definitely part of the ESTA system. This means that if you are a UK citizen, you possess a recent and valid passport, and your visit to the United States is for less than 90 days then you are exempt from visa requirements and can use our online application form for your ESTA authorisation application.
However it is important you clearly understand the meaning of the term ‘citizen’. In fact, it is not enough for you to simply have UK nationality to obtain ESTA authorisation. Above all you need to be a permanent resident of the United Kingdom or another member country of the system.
The ESTA form
The ESTA application form is available on the Internet and can be accessed through the search engines. This form is generally completed in English but is available in other languages including French which can be accessed by clicking here. The time period required for the processing of information is 72 hours; the applicant should therefore plan their trip carefully.
The form presentation comprises three parts:
- The first part concerns the identity of the traveller and information relating to their passport.
- The second is a series of questions to be replied to with either yes or no. On reading this type of question the applicant may tend to reply systematically with ‘no’. In fact, these concern information on the applicant’s health, any antecedents relative to American legislation on drug trafficking, if the applicant knew anyone who may be related to Nazi Germany atrocities etc... As the applicant testifies to having read and understood (or has had them read to them), they are entirely responsible as to the truth and exactitude of their responses when submitting their application. It is therefore necessary to carefully read all questions and, if necessary, request the advice of a third party in case of incomplete understanding.
- Finally, the third part of the form concerns information on the flight for the United States. This part is optional.
Precautions to take when completing the ESTA application form
It should be noted that the information is requested from all non-immigrant travellers or those without a temporary visa. As the ESTA form is individual, one application corresponds to each visitor. The obligatory fields are marked with an asterisk. For example, you should take care to not confuse the character ‘O’ and the ‘0’ or ‘1’ and ‘l’. Mistakes can lead to refusals thereby delaying the applicant’s trip. Finally, the traveller should verify that their passport is valid and in accordance with the requirements.
Is it possible to easily modify an ESTA?
We have just looked at how easy it is to complete an ESTA authorisation application form online, particularly as it is available in several languages, but also because you can obtain valuable assistance and support that you need from our service provider. However an important question arises concerning the possibility of modifying information already entered on the form.
The first thing you should know for your peace of mind is that the submission of your questionnaire is only completed after a complete verification of the information you have provided. In fact, when you come to the end of the online application procedure you will be offered the opportunity to review a summary of your application with all your answers to the questions asked for verification. Take the time to read through it carefully, checking each question and answer to ensure you have not made any mistakes or forgotten anything. Once your application form has been submitted and the payment completed you can no longer return to the form for verification or modifications.
Also, certain responses are automatically verified by the online form software such as the validity of the passport number, the correct email address format or other specific information such as your telephone number but this is not the case for all the questions on the form. You should therefore take great care to check all your answers yourself.
You should know that it is often difficult, even impossible, to modify your application form once it has been submitted. This form is in fact immediately submitted to the American authorities to ensure that your application is processed as quickly as possible. In the case of modifications you will need to wait to receive your refusal or acceptance notification before making modifications or applying for a new ESTA.
Only certain precise information can be modified after submitting your questionnaire and receiving a response, either positive or negative, to your application. But please note, even if your ESTA application has been accepted, maybe you will still not be allowed onto American territory if you made a mistake when entering certain important information.
Do therefore be extremely vigilant and take the time to carefully complete your application in a place where you will not be disturbed.
Is it possible to complete the ESTA application form for other visitors?
If you are organising a group visit to the United States with family or friends it can be beneficial for you to complete ESTA authorisation applications for all your group members that will accompany you. To do so there exists a group application system.
Of course, you will need to respond to all questions asked for each of the group members’ applications. You will therefore need a variety of information for each of these people such as their complete identity details, their dates and places of birth, their postal addresses and passport numbers as well as details concerning their professional activities and information that enables you to respond to questions on their behalf relating to their health and morality. Therefore it is best that each individual applicant is with you when you complete their form or that you are in contact by telephone. Of course the costs and fees are the same for all visitors and a group application does not give rise to a reduction or discount of any kind. However, one person may pay the fees and costs for all the members of the group application.
It should be noted here that an acceptance or refusal of an ESTA application is individual and certain visitors may obtain their authorisation whereas others receive a refusal.