Applying for an ESTA group for the whole family

To travel to the United States, and if you benefit from the Visa Waiver Programme, it is necessary for each traveller to obtain an ESTA travel authorisation by using the electronic system implemented a few years ago. Although these formalities may appear fastidious for families, since 2012, it has been possible to create a group application which makes the process simpler and more practical.  

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How does a family ESTA application work?

Families that wish to travel to the United States for a period of less than 90 days and are citizens of one of the programme member countries may apply for an ESTA directly online and easily obtain their travel authorisation. For this they need to use a function that enables the simultaneous processing of several applications.

A single person may therefore be responsible for making ESTA applications for all the family, as long as they have all the information necessary such as passport numbers and personal data for each traveller (date of birth, address…).

Of course, the cost of ESTA applications for all the family does not give the right to a reduction or group price, each traveller has to pay the transfer and processing fees of their application, even the children.

Please note that a collective ESTA application also works for a group of friends for example, it is not reserved only for families.

 

Why complete a group ESTA application for a family?

The major advantage of a group ESTA application if you travel as a family concerns of course the file management which in this case is handled by a single person, even if it is of course possible for each traveller to effect their own application.

The parents may also create authorisation applications for their children who are minors, or even of adult age, and thereby ensure that everyone receives their ESTA before the departure date for the U.S.A.  Creating this application for the whole family in fact makes it possible to obtain a rapid response for all the applications simultaneously within a period of 72 hours.

 

How does the acceptance or refusal of a group application work?

Once all the application forms of the combined group have been examined by the competent American authorities, they will send a response by email to the person responsible for the grouped applications. The response time is of course the same as that of an individual application, 72 hours maximum.

Each traveller will therefore obtain, independently of the other travellers, an authorisation or a refusal for their stay in the USA.  In the case of a refusal for one of the travellers, the latter will have the possibility of reapplying for an ESTA authorisation 10 days later or making a classic visa application from an American Consulate or Embassy.

Of course, such a refusal will not affect the authorisations of the other applicants in the group who may use their travel authorisation during its legal validity period of two years.

 

How to reuse or modify an ESTA application for a family:

You may need to access your group ESTA application again, to add a new traveller before the processing of the file or to make a modification to the form, or confirm the validity of the information entered for a future trip. It is of course possible for you to recover your file, either by going through the website used to create your application, or by the official ESTA website. For this you will need to supply the reference number that you received by email, or give the following information:

  • The group identification reference
  • The first and last names of the contact person
  • The contact person’s date of birth
  • The contact person’s email address

In the same way, each member of a family can access their own personal file and use their ESTA to travel alone during the period of validity of this document which lasts for two years.

 

How can members of a family each use their ESTA individually?

This is another question that can often come to mind if you submit a group application for all or some of the members of a family. In fact, an ESTA is valid for a period of two years after it has been granted so it is therefore possible that some of the group or family members that have obtained their ESTA through a group application may wish to use their authorisation for future trips to the United States either alone or with other people. So, is it possible to use this authorisation in this case?

The response to this question is of course ‘Yes’ as even if an ESTA application is submitted as part of a group application it is still granted to each individual. Therefore each family or group member has their own travel authorisation electronically linked to their individual passport number. This is in fact the reason why it is possible that one or several members of the group can be refused this authorisation whereas it may be granted to other group members.

The fact that an ESTA authorisation is individual even in the case of a group application also enables each traveller to use it as they wish. It is therefore entirely possible for a family or group member to make one or several trips, stopovers or transits through the United States alone or accompanied by other people using the ESTA authorisation obtained with a group travel application.

Of course, for this to be possible it is also necessary to fulfil the travel conditions covered by the ESTA, this means that the visit should not exceed 90 days and no major change in the individual’s situation requires a renewal of the ESTA.

Therefore, a family member who has not changed their identity, address or passport number and consequently whose legal situation has not changed may visit the United States independently using this authorisation at any time during its validity period. In the case of a major change such as those cited it will be necessary to complete a new ESTA application to correctly reflect the visitor’s situation. In certain specific cases some information may be modified without the requirement to complete an entirely new online application procedure.

 

Is it necessary to be part of the same family to complete an ESTA group application?

As previously noted, it is possible to complete an ESTA group application for travelling as a family to the United States. But to access this practical and rapid service some people ask if it is necessary to have a family link with the other group members.

The response to this question is ‘No’! In fact, you may complete an ESTA group application with anyone that you wish to travel with, whether they are a family member or not. Therefore an unmarried couple or a group of friends that wish to travel to the USA together can complete this procedure collectively.

But there again, it is necessary for the person responsible for the group application to have all the information necessary for the full completion of all the application forms. For this it is best that each application is completed in the presence of the individual applicant, each will be required to have their valid passport number with them.

There is in fact no requirement to specify a parental link when you complete a number of ESTA applications for various travellers on a single website. The only requirement is that you must be able to correctly answer all the questions asked which means you need to know all those who will travel with you to the United States and for whom you are applying very well or you should request them to be present with you during the completion of the form.  

The only specification regarding children who are minors is that the application should be made by one of the parents or a legal guardian to be eligible. It is actually the adult responsible for the child that is considered as the person responsible for the truthfulness of the information supplied during the completion of the ESTA application. 

 

What are the advantages of an ESTA group application for a family?

Organising a family trip generally requires a lot of time to organise and a highly practical and organised approach to ensure that nothing is forgotten and any unforeseen mishaps are avoided as much as possible. For this reason, a group ESTA application to travel to the United States as a family is an idea that is extremely logical and offers certain advantages such as the following:

  • Firstly, a single person is responsible for the applications. This ensures that no-one forgets or delays in applying for their ESTA which could result in family members being blocked at the airport and unable to board.
  • The group application enables all members to receive their ESTA authorisation at the same time. The validity period of these travel authorisations is therefore the same for them all and the whole family can enjoy further future visits together.
  • The group application for a family also represents a major saving in time even though a form needs to be completed in full for each traveller. As they are all completed on the same website this saves browsing time and enables one single person to be the primary contact and group representative in case of problems or difficulties regarding the completion of the forms.
  • Finally, this enables the allotment of travel organisational tasks by confiding this administrative procedure to a single person. In this way, the other travellers can concentrate on other things such as organising the baggage, airport travel, or planning visits and activities for when they reach their destination.

Finally, ESTA group applications are practical and ideal solutions for families that wish to travel together to the United States. Do not forget however to check the validity of the passports for each group member and apply plenty of time beforehand to ensure that everyone obtains their travel authorisation before the departure date.

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