Should I apply for an ESTA for a transit through the United States?

Should I apply for an ESTA for a transit through the United States?

To the question ‘is an ESTA required for a transit through the United States?’ the answer is an unequivocal ‘yes’. In fact if you are to set foot on American territory you are required to hold an ESTA authorisation, even if it is just for a stopover of only a few minutes or hours. In the same manner as with a stay in the USA you should therefore complete the procedure for obtaining ESTA authorisation at least 72 hours before your departure.


Why is an ESTA required for a transit through the United States?

When you are simply transiting through an American airport to go to another country you will generally have to change your airplane and therefore pass through the ‘transit zone’. Before your arrival in the transit zone you will also have to pass through an identity check and customs control the same as if it was your final destination. You will then be able to take your next flight.

In the same way and for travelling from one US town to another, the air companies will require that you hold a valid ESTA authorisation. It should also be noted that the ESTA is not only required for airborne travel to the United States, it is also required when travelling by other means of transport such as by sea.


How to complete an ESTA application for a transit through the United States

The procedure for obtaining an ESTA for transiting through the United States is the same as for a stay there insomuch as you need to visit a website such as ours to complete the application form. You should ensure that you indicate ‘Transit’ in the place reserved for your address in the United States. The cost of your ESTA application is the same as requesting a travel authorisation to stay in the United States.

As with the traditional visa, ensure that you have your valid biometric or electronic passport close to hand. Once you have obtained your ESTA, and even though it is not obligatory, we recommend you print a copy to carry with you during your visit.


How to transit through the United States without an ESTA

If your ESTA application was refused, for whatever reason, or you have been unable to complete the procedure you should still complete administrative procedures for transiting through the United States. You can either reapply for an ESTA after a ten day period following your first application, or if necessary, apply for a visa through the American Embassy.


Can a previously issued ESTA be used?

If you have already travelled to the USA you have no doubt already obtained an ESTA authorisation. If the latter was issued less than two years ago you can reuse it for your transit through the United States. Of course, your personal information should be updated to ensure that your ESTA remains valid for this future trip.


What is the difference between an ESTA to stay or one to transit through the United States?

If you travel abroad and your travel plans include a transit through the United States then you will need to obtain an ESTA authorisation. This document is in fact the same as for a normal visit. Even though it is important to state that your visit is actually for a stopover, indicating your final destination, this authorisation can enable you to stay in the USA for a maximum of 90 days.

This represents a real advantage as you can then use this same travel authorisation for other visits to the USA during the two years after you obtain your authorisation.  In fact, your travel and transit authorisation is automatically linked to your passport number for this time. Of course, to use your ESTA again it is necessary that you fulfil the conditions regarding the maximum stay of three months and no important personal details change between the time you apply and the time you actually use it for travel.

In the same way, your passport number should also be the same.


Is it possible to leave the airport using an ESTA during a stopover in the United States?

Another question that many visitors ask when their travel includes a stopover in the United States regards the possibility of benefitting from this time by visiting the surrounding area. In fact, a stopover, contrary to a transit, can sometimes be quite long and therefore enables the opportunity of visiting the local area a little before continuing with your travel to your final destination.

It is important to note that the ESTA that you have obtained for your transit can be used to exit the airport to visit the surrounding area. However, you will still need to pass the border controls when you disembark before reaching the airport exit. This procedure can take a while, even a few hours at busy times. You should therefore ensure you have enough time to fully benefit from your short visit.

The ESTA is a true travel authorisation that is valid even for a few hours so it would be a shame to not benefit from it to enjoy a little of this incredible country, the United States, and its legendary culture even if just for your stopover, particularly if your stopover takes place in New York.

Online ESTA application form