The ESTA: An infallible security system
The date 12 January 2009 marked the implementation of the ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel authorisation, 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 authorisation 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 authorisation 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 authorisation.
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.
More details on the ESTA form
The application form has four sections, each covering different information concerning the visitor, their passport to be used to enter the United States, their journey and travel plans when they arrive and other questions related to the applicant’s past.
Available in several languages, including English, the form is clear but requires a complete understanding by the applicant concerning the questions that need to be replied to. The applicant certifies the truth and accuracy of the information supplied on the submission of the completed ESTA application form. They are therefore entirely responsible for the information supplied. You can find the ESTA application form here.
As the system is managed by agents of the American Department of Homeland Security, each applicant’s file is submitted to in-depth scrutiny and verifications are completed automatically. Due to the time required for information processing, a margin of 72 hours should be allowed even though last minute authorisations are often possible. In order to minimise the risks of refusal it is best to take certain precautions. A travel authorisation is valid for two years from the acceptance date.
What you need to remember when completing the ESTA application form
In order to avoid any inconvenience it is best to take the time to carefully read through the application form, even the information at the top and to the side of the page. Do not hesitate to ask assistance from a third person if you have difficulties in reading it. When completing it, the applicant should take care not to confuse certain characters that resemble each other. Certain applicants take the initiative by printing the form, reading it and asking someone to read through the completed printed form to prevent any ambiguity. Having your passport next to you is also highly recommended as some of the information required is the same as that stated on the passport.
Another important point, the UK and Irish emergency passports ate not valid for the Visa Waiver Program as they are not biometric. Also, certain older types of passport do not comply with the required standards. In these cases the ESTA program is not able to ascertain the passport validity.