Does the ESTA authorisation form need printing?

In preparation for travelling to the United States you intend to complete an ESTA application to receive authorisation to visit the United States. This entirely electronic system has the objective of simplifying the entry procedures for travellers from Visa Waiver Program member countries. However this new procedure, as yet fairly unknown, can cause confusion and give rise to different questions including the necessity or not of printing the form once it has been completed. Here are some detailed explanations that can clarify things for you.  

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Is the printing of the ESTA form obligatory?

As we have just stated, the ESTA system is entirely electronic. This means that your application is processed entirely online without the need to complete any documents by hand or make any visits to administrative offices such as those rather tiresome procedures to be taken to apply for a visa.

You simply need to complete the form available online on a website such as ours and you will obtain a response from the American authorities in just a few days advising whether you are authorised, or not, to travel to the United States.

Using this system, and due to the fact that with the form you provide all pertinent information on your identity and your travel plans, at your departure the transport company can consult the ESTA authorisation linked to your passport using specialized software.

It is therefore not normally necessary to print your form or the authorisation that you receive by email. However, we recommend that you print these documents for security reasons to ensure you can board your plane or ship in case of unforeseen problems.

 

Why is it advisable to print your ESTA authorisation form?

Although the printing of your ESTA form or authorisation is not obligatory, it is still recommended to keep track of these documents for a number of reasons as follows: 

  • To validate information supplied: You may think you made a mistake while completing your online ESTA application form but don’t know which information is wrong. By keeping a printed copy of your form you can directly access your information, even if you wish to reuse your application form information for a future trip as your ESTA is valid for two years.
  • To warn you of a problem at departure: Although the air travel companies and other travel companies are equipped with the necessary software to electronically read the ESTA it is always safer to travel with a printed form to foresee against any computer problem and to reply  more easily to any questions asked by American Immigration authorities.
  • Know the validity period of the ESTA: As the ESTA is valid for two years keep a copy of your authorisation so you can check at any time if it is still valid if you plan to travel again to the United States.

 

How to print your ESTA if you do not have a printer?

For reasons of security, even though it is not absolutely necessary, maybe you would like to print a paper copy of your ESTA authorisation to keep a physical version in a safe place but you do not possess a printer. How then to do so?

Several solutions are available to you to print your ESTA if you do not have a printer. The first is of course to ask a friend or family member to print it for you. This is possible because when you have obtained your ESTA authorisation you can print it directly or save it on digital media such as a computer, smartphone or tablet. You then simply need to send this document to the person who can print it for you.

However certain websites that offer travellers the opportunity to apply for their ESTA online also offer a supplementary service enabling them to receive a printed copy of their ESTA document directly at their home by post thereby avoiding the hassle of trying to print the travel authorisation yourself. Of course, this service is payable but the fee is relatively inexpensive and only covers the postal costs (generally just a few Euros). This is dispatched at the same time as the digital processing takes place but of course you need to take into account the time required for transport and delivery.

Unfortunately few websites offer this service at present; the majority simply send you a response to your ESTA application by email. Luckily for you, the partner that we have selected for you on this website does offer you the opportunity to receive a printed ESTA through the mail with their high quality Premium Service. Of course, this paper document does not have any real value as your official ESTA is digitally linked to your passport number so you do not need to produce this paper document when you pass through customs and immigration when you travel. This printed ESTA is simply for safety, a backup copy so you can keep your ESTA number in a safe place in case of future requirements.

Finally, if you wish to keep a copy of your ESTA in another form apart from paper then you can save this document on a hard disc or other digital device. By saving it on your mobile telephone for example you can have it close at hand at all times wherever you are.

 

Is it possible to apply for an ESTA elsewhere apart from through the internet?

Some people also ask if it is possible to obtain a physical paper version of their ESTA through an official administrative department and not through the internet. Unfortunately this is not possible as the ESTA system was specifically designed to work through the internet and thereby avoid the need to visit administrative offices and apply for paper documents.

All ESTA applications must absolutely and without exception be completed online but it is possible, as we have just explained, to print a paper copy of your ESTA authorisation for safekeeping, this can even be sent to you through the postal service if you do not have a printer at your home.

As previously explained, applying for your ESTA authorisation online represents major savings in terms of time and administrative hassle compared to a traditional visa application and it should be remembered that it is not necessary to keep a printed copy of your ESTA as this is digitally and automatically linked to your biometric or electronic passport number.

If you are not comfortable using internet forms then we recommend you use a website that offers a high quality service that will assist you with the completion of the ESTA form. This is particularly the case with our service partner which provides an online chat for assistance. If you have any problems or doubts on how to complete or respond to any of the questions asked then you have the opportunity to ask a specialist advisor who will be able to assist you.

 

What to do if you lose a printed copy of your ESTA authorisation?

If you are worried as you cannot find the copy you printed of your ESTA authorisation when you first received it then worry no more! You do not actually need this printed document when you travel to the United States as long as you haven’t also lost your passport! The only official document you need to present when boarding or at the border control when you arrive is your passport which should be the same one that was initially digitally linked to your ESTA authorisation.

However, if you are determined to find your ESTA for whatever reason, such as for the verification of information submitted, its validity period or in the case of a problem, the first thing to do is to check your email inbox. In fact, if you haven’t deleted the email confirming your ESTA authorisation then it is highly probable that you can simply find it with a simple search of your email inbox.

If, in spite of extensive searching, you do not find your ESTA then do not hesitate to return to the website you used to apply for your travel authorisation in case you can arrange for it to be resent to you. Important! Not all websites will agree to comply with your request.

The best way to ensure you do not need to reprint your ESTA is to keep several copies each in a different place.

It should be noted that contrary to certain other official documents such as identity cards, passports or driving licenses, a printed ESTA cannot be used by a third person for fraudulent means. In fact, each ESTA authorisation is digitally linked to its applicant. This means that an ill intentioned person that presents this document to visit the United States without possessing the corresponding passport will not be authorised for embarkation. If you lose your printed ESTA it is therefore pointless to worry about it or visit a police station to declare its theft or loss.

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