Why is it necessary to submit an official ESTA authorisation application?
As you undoubtedly already know, when you travel outside the European Union you need to hold a valid current visa, as if not you risk being blocked at the borders. This is the case for numerous countries. However, recently the United States decided to facilitate procedures for travellers wishing to visit their country by creating a new official document that replaces the standard visa for citizens from the applicable member countries.
This official document is called ESTA and it is essential that you submit your application before starting your travel to the United States. In fact, this document will enable you to pass through the American borders but you will also be required to provide it at the beginning of your trip, when you board the plane or ship that will take you there. The international transport companies are actually associated with the American authorities and implement a systematic control of their passengers to ensure that everyone has completed an official ESTA document authorisation application.
If you try to fly to North America without his document registered in your name it is highly probable that you will not be allowed to disembark.
How to make an official ESTA document application
Whereas before, applying for a visa was very complicated and required visits to numerous administrative offices and the submission of a number of documents, things have been simplified overall with the ESTA. In fact, you can apply for this official document directly online nowadays and it will only take a few minutes of your time.
The only things you need for an online ESTA application are as follows:
- Information concerning you and the other visitors accompanying you.
- Your passport number.
- A method of payment (Ideally a credit card).
You therefore need to complete a simple online application form by replying to a list of questions that have the aim of stating the reasons for your trip, the duration of your stay and registering you for the American Immigration authorities.
Once your application has been made you will be obliged to make a payment to cover administration costs and will receive, a few hours of a few days later, your official ESTA authorisation, directly by email. You can then print your ESTA authorisation document so you can present it, if required, to the appropriate American authorities.
What is the processing time for an official ESTA application document?
Once you have completed the ESTA application questionnaire, when you have checked and confirmed the information on it and completed the payment, the American immigration authorities will study and verify your application, point by point, paying particular attention to the truth of your answers and the adequacy of your application relating to a travel authorisation.
The response to your application will be sent to you within a maximum of 72 hours although most of the time a response will be received within just a few minutes. This extremely short and rapid processing time is due to the fact that the applications are created online and initially checked using software. After this time period, one of three possible responses will be given by the American territorial authorities.
The note ‘authorisation approved’ permits the applicant to undertake the planned travel to the USA.
The note ‘pending’ indicates that the American authorities are analysing the eligibility of the applicant.
The note ‘authorisation refused’ specifies that the traveller is not authorized to travel to the USA. In this case a second application attempt can be made 10 days after the first.
However even though you need only a few days to obtain your official ESTA document to travel to the United States we strongly recommend that you complete this procedure several weeks before your departure date. This is because in the case whereby your application is refused this will ensure you have time to create a new application respecting the minimum time delay between the forms or apply for a standard visa which entails a longer procedure, whichever may be necessary.
What to do if you haven’t received the official ESTA document following your application?
If you have still not received a response by email within 72 hours indicating the acceptance or refusal of your official ESTA application then there could be several explanations for this:
- The first is extremely simple; the majority of email from unknown senders is automatically filed in the spam folder of your email address inbox.
- Another explanation relates to the non-payment of the costs and fees inherent in the examination of your application that should be paid at the end of the procedure to ensure the transfer and submission of your application.
- Finally, maybe the email address that you stipulated in your application is not correct and therefore you have been unable to receive this reply.
In the case whereby your official ESTA document cannot be found in your spam folder it is possible to recreate the procedure from the start. You will then receive a rapid response.
The validity period of the ESTA authorisation
In principle, the ESTA authorisation is valid for a period of two years from the date delivered. It only expires before that if the applicant’s passport becomes invalid or the authorisation itself is cancelled. Also, the ESTA authorisation enables travellers to travel around American territory for a period of less than 90 days whatever the reason for the visit: Tourism or business.
Furthermore, it is usable for multiple entries into American territory. Therefore no renewal of the application is necessary during the ESTA authorisation validity period of two years.
Is there another way to apply officially for an ESTA apart from online?
The ESTA system was specially created to simplify the procedure for residents from certain countries to visit the United States. It only works online, through the submission of a digital or electronic form. It is therefore impossible to obtain this form on paper and send it by normal mail.
If you do not wish to complete this procedure through the internet but still wish to visit the United States then the only other solution is to apply for a traditional visa through the American Embassy in your home country. You can then apply physically, in person, but this procedure is generally far longer and more complicated.
Other documents you should supply to visit the USA
Apart from a visa or an ESTA authorisation, the presentation of a valid passport is necessary to enter American territory. For the countries covered by the Visa Waiver Program, the electronic passports and the optical passports issued after the 26 October 2005 can be used.
The passports should have been issued in a member country of the Visa Waiver Program. To prove their exit of American territory on the date foreseen the traveller should also present a cruise ship ticket or return flight ticket. Also, proof of financial solvency such as a traveller’s cheque or credit card will also be necessary.
Remember that overseas citizens possessing an ESTA authorisation can use this document for two years without having to renew it. If the holder makes numerous visits to the United States during this period the authorisation remains valid.
Do you need to print your ESTA document when you receive it?
As previously explained, it will generally only take a short time for you to receive your ESTA authorisation that will enable you to travel to the United States. But when you have received it you may wonder if you need to print it.
In fact, it is not absolutely necessary to print your ESTA for your visit. This is actually an electronic or digital document that is electronically linked to your passport. This means that the American immigration authorities can view it and verify it by digitally ‘reading’ it. Therefore you do not need to produce a paper copy of your ESTA when travelling.
However certain people prefer to keep a paper copy of this authorisation by printing their ESTA. This is entirely possible and particularly enables you to keep a safe record of your reference number that will be required to make certain modifications at a later date or it can serve to to remind you of its expiry date.
If you do not have a printer at home then you will be pleased to know that certain service providers such as our recommended partner offer this supplementary service. You can therefore request that a copy of your official ESTA is sent by post to your home address. In this way you have both the digital document linked to your passport and a paper copy of this important document.
What other official documents will you require for visiting the United States?
You already know that the ESTA authorisation is obligatory to visit the United States if you do not hold a visa. But this is not the only official document that you will need for your visit. It is also equally necessary that you hold a valid biometric or electronic passport that is also valid for the entirety of your visit.
This passport is in any case necessary for your ESTA application as you will need to provide a valid passport number when you complete the online form. Your ESTA will be digitally linked to this passport number.
It is therefore primordial that the passport bearing the number you gave on your ESTA application online is the same as the one you use for your visit. If your passport reaches its expiry date before your visit then we recommend that you renew it before applying for your ESTA. If you renew this document after completing your application your ESTA will not be visible or valid as it will be linked to your old passport. This means you will be required to complete a new ESTA application, paying the costs and fees again.
Apart from your passport and your ESTA no other official documents are necessary to visit the USA. For example you do not need an identity card as your passport acts as a valid piece of identity. However, do remember to take your driving license if you plan to drive during your visit, UK driving licenses are valid in the United States.
Are there other official documents that enable you to travel to the United States?
The ESTA authorisation is one of the official documents that auhtorise you to visit the United States. But there exist other legal documents that also enable you to visit the USA such as the visa. The reason for your visit and your nationality are two of the criteria that will determine which travel authorisation you should apply for.
Therefore if you live in one of the ESTA program member countries and you fulfil the prerequisite travel conditions including a visit of less than 90 days for touristic reasons or visiting friends or family then it is to your advantage to use the ESTA travel authorisation to visit the United States. The procedure is generally a lot easier and faster than that of a visa application.
However if you wish to visit the USA for longer than three months, you plan to study there during your visit or work there or if you are not a citizen of one of the 22 member countries of the ESTA programme then you will need to apply for a traditional visa.
For this, you can also use an online service but you will be required to supply certain official documents as well as completing the online form. The waiting time is also far longer than with an ESTA, you may even have to wait a few weeks before obtaining your visa. For visa applications you will also need a valid passport that is also valid for the entirety of your visit.
We therefore recommend that, when possible, you benefit from the ESTA Visa Waiver Program that offers you numerous advantages in terms of time and money saved and enables you to travel more easily to the United States during a period of two years.