How and why should you verify the validity of your ESTA before starting your travel?
Before looking at the validity of your ESTA authorisation itself, it should be remembered that for it to be valid this document should contain valid current and truthful information. This is why if some of the information you entered during your first application is no longer correct then your ESTA will no longer be accepted as valid by the American authorities.
This is the case for example if you have moved to another country, if your personal contact details have changed or if you change your destination or your travel route. The validity of your passport is also directly linked to that of your ESTA as if you use a new passport, therefore with a different number, your ESTA can no longer be associated with it.
How long is an ESTA currently valid for?
It is the American Ministry of Security for the Interior that is responsible for fixing the valid duration period of an ESTA. Since its implementation in 2010, this period of validity has been fixed at two years. This means that once your application has been submitted and approved, your travel authorisation to the United States can be re-used for several visits over the two years that follow.
However you should be careful! As noted previously, the validity of the information supplied in the beginning should be carefully verified before re-using your ESTA, and any necessary modifications should be completed to ensure that your ESTA is representative of your current true situation. Please note that you have the possibility, by visiting the website where you completed your first application, to access this original information and even print your application form to more easily verify it.
What is the visit duration authorised by the ESTA?
As previously stated, the ESTA authorisation is valid for two years consecutively for the planning of a number of visits to the United States. However this period of validity should not be confused with the visit duration authorised by this visa exemption.
In fact, whatever the reason for your visit to the United States, this will be limited to 90 consecutive days. Once this period has ended you are obliged to leave American territory although this does not stop you returning with the same ESTA if the latter is still valid.
A return ticket is obligatory to obtain an ESTA:
The response to this query is of course in the affirmative. It is absolutely necessary to have your return ticket to obtain an ESTA electronic travel authorisation and this is for one simple reason.
One of the conditions you should fulfil to obtain the right to travel to the United States without a visa and with only a simple ESTA authorisation relates to the duration of your visit which should not be longer than 90 days. The only reliable way of confirming that your stay does not exceed this period is of course by your return ticket.
The return ticket that you will use on your departure date should of course coincide with the return date stated on your ESTA application. The dates on both items will be systematically verified by your travel company and by the American authorities on your initial arrival.
How to travel to the United States when your ESTA is no longer valid?
A previously stated, it is imperative that your ESTA authorisation is valid at the time of your departure for the United States and that your personal information has not changed at that time. If this is not the case or your ESTA has expired then you will simply need to renew it.
But contrary to certain other official documents that arrive at their expiry date such as an identity card, it is not automatically renewed but rather should be seen as a new application. This means that you will need to complete the entire procedure again, completing all the questions on the application form as if it was your first ESTA authorisation application.
You will also need to pay the fees for the transfer and processing of your application again.
Finally, it is important to note that even if your ESTA application was accepted the first time this does not mean that it will automatically be accepted this time. In fact, if your situation has changed or the regulations concerning entry to the United States have been changed then it is possible that the American immigration authorities responsible may decide to refuse your travel authorisation application.
The cases whereby an ESTA is no longer valid even though it has not expired:
We have just covered the validity period of an ESTA authorisation and you therefore know that this travel authorisation can be used for a two year period from its delivery date. However it is also important to know that in certain cases you will still need to renew your ESTA even if it still theoretically valid. Certain major changes in your situation can require a new ESTA application and render your previous ESTA invalid. Here are some instances that would require a new ESTA application to be completed even if you hold an ESTA that has not expired:
- A change of passport: You surely understand by now that your ESTA is an electronic travel authorisation that is digitally linked to your passport number. If your passport reaches its expiry date before the end of the ESTA validity period then you will need to renew it and therefore your passport will have a different number. It is consequently only logical that your ESTA will not be linked to your new passport. As a result you cannot undertake a visit to the United States without applying for a new ESTA. Of course, it is the same if you have to change your passport for another reason such as the loss or theft of the original.
- A change of identity: In the same way, if important information concerning your identity has changed such as your last name, your first name or your gender then you will be required to change this information on your passport and reapply for an ESTA so that the information on your travel authorisation is valid and in accordance with that of your passport.
- A change in your residential address: If you have moved since your last ESTA application then the address previously given is no longer valid and you will need to reapply stating your new address.
- Finally, if one of the answers to questions that appear further along in the questionnaire has changed then it is clear that you will need to reapply for an ESTA to obtain a new travel authorisation. This is why we recommend that you keep a copy of your initial ESTA and its application form so you can verify the information given for your new application.
Important! Even if your previous ESTA is still valid the fact of applying for a new one does not extend its validity period which remains at two years from its delivery date which is the date you receive a confirmation response email from the American authorities. In the same way, the fact of possessing a valid ESTA does not guarantee that you will obtain an ESTA with a new application. Your application will again be scrupulously examined and any major change in the information provided may result in a refusal.
Should the validity period of an ESTA cover the entirety of a visit?
Another question that is often asked relates to a new visit to the United States with an ESTA authorisation that is close to its expiry date and if this ESTA should cover the entire visit.
In reality, the validity period of your ESTA should also cover the departure date for your visit to the United States but it does not actually need to cover the return date. Of course, as with all travel completed with an electronic travel authorisation, your visit should not exceed 90 days.
If your ESTA is set to expire during your visit to the United States you will not need to renew it and can continue with your visit without any particular difficulty. The only official document that absolutely needs to be valid throughout your entire visit is your passport. As we explained earlier if you need to renew your passport then you will need to complete a new ESTA authorisation application.
We would also like to draw your attention to the particular cases of stopovers and transits through the United States. In fact, you will need a valid ESTA authorisation even if you are not planning to actually stay in the United States. Therefore, if your ESTA is expected to expire during your trip and you have planned a stopover or transit for your return flight then you should apply for a new ESTA and thereby present an ESTA that is valid. In fact, as you left American territory after your initial stopover or transit then your return transit or stopover is considered as a new visit to the United States.
What is the cost of renewing an ESTA that has expired?
Finally, let us examine the subject of costs and fees inherent in a renewal of an ESTA when the previous authorisation reaches its expiry date. As we have previously indicated, the renewal of this travel authorisation is not an automatic procedure and it is necessary to complete an entirely new application by fully completing a new form when your two year validity period reaches its end.
Due to this fact, you will of course have to again pay all the processing and transfer fees related to your ESTA application as this new application will require the same examination and verification as a first application. It is therefore not possible to not pay this sum or obtain a reduction as you have previously held an ESTA. It is therefore important to ensure that you have the funds available in your bank account for this online payment.
Concerning this particularity, it is recommended you take care to calculate the ideal time to renew or apply for your ESTA authorisation to fully benefit from the two year validity period enabling you to travel to the United States so you can enjoy the maximum of trips and visits.