The ESTA application procedure in detail

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The ESTA application procedure in detail

Nowadays a simplified procedure exists that enables you to obtain travel authorisation to the United States. This procedure is the ESTA. But what exactly is the ESTA procedure? How can it be completed rapidly and easily to prepare calmly for a trip to the USA? This is what we will look at here in detail with explanations and advice to avoid mistakes or a refusal.


The ESTA procedure: What is it?

The ‘ESTA procedure’ is basically the steps that have to be followed to obtain travel authorisation to visit American territory. The term ESTA is short for ‘Electronic System for Travel Authorisation’.

To summarise, the ESTA is a lighter, simplified type of the traditional visa but is only available in electronic format. This procedure needs to be undertaken at least 72 hours before your departure if you plan to travel to the USA for a short holiday or professional visit.


What is the point of the ESTA procedure?

As we have just explained, the ESTA procedure was implemented in 2009 with the aim of simplifying the travel applications to the United States. Before then it was necessary to apply for a visa from the American Embassy. But nowadays, you simply have to visit a website such as ours and complete a straightforward application form online.

By completing this ESTA procedure by Internet you will save time and the American authorities will also save time by keeping track of your application electronically as, once obtained, the ESTA authorisation is valid for two years including future trips to the United States.


How to follow the ESTA procedure:

Firstly, you should ensure you have your valid biometric or electronic passport close to hand. The passport should be the same one you will use for your forthcoming trip. Then you should complete the application form, ensure you reply honestly and correctly to all questions and pay particular attention to the information concerning your identification details. You will be asked about any crimes or major infractions you have committed, as well as the reasons for your travel to the USA.

If you do not have all the information required at the time of completing your application form you can still pre-register it and return later to complete it. To do this you will need to note your reference number which will be requested the next time you login.

Once the information provided has been verified and the application validated, you will need to pay the administrative fees by credit card. The American authorities can then study your application and send you a response by email within a maximum of 72 hours.

The ESTA procedure stops there concerning you as you have no other steps to take. The customs officers will be informed electronically of your travel authorisation on your passage through the border.


Is the ESTA procedure absolutely obligatory for travelling to the United States?

We have explained in detail the ESTA procedure for the USA. However maybe you are wondering if this procedure is obligatory and you are absolutely required to complete these steps for travelling to the USA. The response to this question is of course positive as you cannot visit America without a travel authorisation.

In fact it would even be impossible to board a form of transport destined for the United States, even for a simple transit, if you do not possess such an authorisation as the first control is completed even before boarding. If on presenting your passport no ESTA authorisation is noted and you do not have a visa then the security officers would simply forbid you from boarding and therefore you could not even begin your travel to the USA.  

Of course you still have the possibility of not requiring an ESTA authorisation if you possess a valid traditional visa for the United States. But a visa application can be a lengthy procedure as well as fiddly and costly and is not necessarily a judicious choice if you prefer a simpler method to prepare for your visit.

If you are a citizen of one of the ESTA scheme member countries and your visit to the United States is for less than 90 days then you will be automatically required to follow the administrative procedure that allows you to enter American territory, this means an online ESTA application.

Do not forget that an ESTA travel authorisation has a major advantage: It is valid for a two year period following the date it was initially granted and therefore you do not need to renew the procedure for future visits to the USA during this period.


Is a passport necessary to travel to the USA?

The response to this question is of course in the affirmative. Although a simple identity document will suffice for visiting a number of countries, it will only do so for destinations within the European Union. Beyond European borders you will absolutely need to possess a passport and present it for inspection at boarding and on your entry into most countries.

The United States represent a highly popular destination although also extremely vigilant and diligent concerning the entry conditions onto American territory. You should therefore ensure you have a valid passport for the time of your departure. If you do not have a passport or your passport is nearing its expiry date then wait no longer, contact the passport authorities as soon as possible to expedite the procedure.  The time taken for the issue of a biometric passport can vary, particularly relating to the period of application, so it is highly important that you take this into account and apply for your passport well in advance.

It should also be noted that temporary passports are not acceptable for entry into the United States.


The other official documents required for your trip to the USA:

Although a passport is a necessary identification document for travelling to the USA, it is not sufficient in itself to authorise you to enter American territory. In fact, in accordance with the length of your stay in the United States, even if you are simply transiting through American territory, you will need at least the travel authorisation named the ESTA, or if not then a traditional valid visa.

The ESTA is an electronic system that makes it possible within a maximum of 72 hours to obtain the authorisation from American authorities to enter the USA for a stay of less than 90 days. The application for the ESTA needs to be completed online on a website such as ours by simply completing a form. Please note, when you complete your questionnaire you will be asked for your passport number so ensure you have this document at hand to avoid wasting time. Once the ESTA application form has been submitted and the fees paid you simply have to wait for a few hours to receive a positive or negative response from the American authorities by email.

If your stay is expected to be for longer than 90 days you should complete a visa application directly from the American Embassy.


Which types of passport are authorised for travelling to the USA with an ESTA?

As we examined above, if you apply for an ESTA authorisation for the United States you will absolutely need to possess a passport that is valid when you apply as well as during the entirety of your intended visit. But not all types of passport are acceptable for this program.

In fact, only passports that can be read electronically by a machine can be used for travelling to the USA using ESTA authorisation. Therefore only electronic or biometric passports with a microchip are eligible.

However, if your passport was originally issued without a microchip maybe it will be accepted if it has been renewed or prolonged and has a digital photograph printed on the data page with an electronic microchip that enables it to be read electronically. Do not forget to check this carefully before applying online for your ESTA.

In the case whereby your current passport does not enable digital reading but you still wish to use the ESTA program to prepare for your visit we recommend that you apply for a new passport from the passport office. In this way you will receive a new electronic or biometric passport that enables you to benefit from the visa waiver program. Of course, this application will be payable. You may also be required to supply certain documents relating to personal details as well as some recent photographs. 


The case in which ESTA authorisation is not required to visit the United States:

There is only one unique case whereby an ESTA authorisation is not required to visit the United States: If you possess a visa. It is actually absolutely necessary to hold either a visa or ESTA authorisation to travel to the United States.

As the USA is very strict concerning security measures following the attacks of a few years ago, no visitor can set foot on American territory without first obtaining authorisation from the immigration service. In all cases you should therefore have an official document, either a visa or ESTA authorisation, before you travel to the United States.

This official document will be requested when you board. It should be noted that it is actually much easier to obtain an ESTA than a visa as the latter requires a visit to the American Embassy with a lengthy and complex procedure.

Online ESTA application form