ESTA: The official document for the United States

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ESTA: The official document for the United States

For the last few years, those who wish to travel to the USA have needed an official ESTA document that permits them to enter the United States. This obligatory travel authorisation has replaced the traditional visa for short visits. The procedure should be completed well before the departure date. To assist you in better understanding the use of the document we have prepared some detailed explanations.

 

What is the official ESTA document?

As you have just learned, the official ESTA document is a type of legal authorisation to travel to the United States. It is therefore delivered by the American authorities after you have completed and submitted the application. However, unlike traditional official documents, the ESTA is requested and supplied in an electronic form which means you have no paper forms to complete and you will receive no physical documents either.

The procedure therefore entirely takes place online by the completion of an official form of which the responses are then carefully studied by the American authorities responsible for immigration. Once your official ESTA application has been submitted, you will receive a response from the relevant authorities within 72 hours.

 

When should you request an official ESTA document to enter the United States?

The official ESTA document is obligatory to enter the United States under certain conditions such as the following:

  • It concerns all visits to American territory for a duration of less than 3 months, whatever the reason for the visit (touristic, professional...)
  • It should be renewed every two years
  • It concerns all citizens of this program’s member countries (including the UK…)
  • It is necessary for all persons, major or minor
  • You should hold a valid biometric or electronic passport

It is necessary to apply for an official ESTA document at least 72 hours before your departure for the USA.

 

How to obtain an official ESTA document to enter the United States?

To obtain this obligatory official ESTA document you simply need to complete the form available on our website and pay the administration fees using a credit card. This procedure should be completed for each person you travel with.

This application form will ask for information on your identity, the reasons for your trip to the USA, and official information such as your passport number. It is therefore best to ensure that you have all possible necessary information close to hand before starting to complete the questionnaire.

Once your application has been submitted, you will receive an email over the next few following days indicating if the American authorities have validated your authorisation or if, to the contrary, they have refused it. If you have been granted the official ESTA document, you do not need to print it as the Travel Agency or Travel Company you have used as well as the American Border Services will automatically be informed of this decision. However you may print it if you wish to keep note of your reference number so you may use it for future trips to the United States.

 

How to use your official ESTA document to enter the United States?

Now that you know how to obtain your official ESTA document online in only a few days, let us look at how to use it to enter the United States. Maybe you have already visited the United States in the past, before the ESTA program was initiated, and have already used a visa during your boarding and arrival in America.

As we will explain further here, with the ESTA system there is in fact no other document you need to carry with you or present other than your biometric or electronic passport. Maybe you remember that when you completed your online travel authorisation application you gave your passport number. As long as the passport used for your travel is the same as that stated on your ESTA application form then your ESTA authorisation is automatically linked to that passport number. This means that your ESTA is electronically or digitally linked to your passport number. When your passport is digitally or electronically read the immigration authorities will automatically see your travel authorisation appear on their monitors or screens.

This means that you in fact have no particular document you need to print or present during your travel. This is one of the great advantages of the ESTA system.

As you may already know, your ESTA authorisation can be used for numerous visits or transits through the USA during its 2 year validity period. If no major change has occurred in your personal details then you will have nothing further to do and your ESTA remains linked to your passport number during this period and can easily be examined during border controls.

 

What to do if you haven’t obtained the official ESTA document for entering the United States?

If your travel plans or nationality do not permit you to obtain ESTA travel authorisation but you still wish to travel to the United States then you do have the possibility available of applying for a traditional visa. This is particularly relevant for visits that exceed 90 days, if you plan to work on American territory, or you come from a country that does not participate in the ESTA visa waiver program.

To do this you will need to file an application after obtaining it from your closest American Embassy together with various official documents. Important note! This procedure generally takes far longer than the ESTA process and can actually take several weeks.

If you have applied for an ESTA and been refused than you can still apply for a traditional visa but you may find that your visa application is also refused for the same reasons. Before taking this step we recommend that you reapply for an ESTA after a delay of ten days following your initial application. It may be that you simply made a mistake when completing your application form.

 

Should the ESTA authorisation be printed before departure?

A frequently asked question concerning the ESTA application form asks if it is necessary to print it and keep a copy with you during your trip. The answer to this question is ‘no’. It is absolutely not obligatory to print your ESTA authorisation which in any case would be of no use to you for your trip. The immigration service and the company you travel with will automatically be informed of the authorisation granted that is automatically linked to your passport number.

Nevertheless, we advise you to carefully keep note of your reference number to ensure you can later update the information you have entered. A simple way to do this is by printing the confirmation email you receive.

 

Which is the official website of the ESTA programme?

All the visitors that wish to complete an ESTA application online can of course use the official website created by the American government. This is https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/.

You will find an application form to complete that you will need to submit to receive a positive or negative response to your application. Of course, this website only provides the official application form and offers no other supplementary services. It is therefore necessary to be prudent when using it to avoid the risk of having your ESTA application refused due to a simple error on your part.

Although this is the official website it is entirely possible and legal to go through another website such as ours which also offers you access to the official ESTA application form. The procedure remains exactly the same but you can benefit from various supplementary services that we will detail below.

 

What are the advantages of using our website instead of the official website?

If you decide to use our website to complete your ESTA application online then you will have the guarantee of accessing the official American government application form and thereby obtain a rapid response to your application. But you will also be able to benefit from various other advantages such as the following:

  • Assistance in replying to all the questions asked: Certain questions may make you wonder exactly how you should reply. For example, a woman may be uncertain as to which name to use on her application, her maiden name or married name. You will find the answer to this question and many others through our various detailed articles.
  • Advice for better organising your visit: Organising a visit to the United States is not a case of simply completing an application for travel authorisation. On our website we explain everything you need to know so you can plan your trip calmly and under the best conditions.
  • Group applications: If you plan to visit the USA with family or friends then you will be pleased to know it is possible to make a group application by directly registering all the group members for your trip using the application form that is accessible on our website.
  • Secure payment: Of course, you can settle the payment for processing and transfer fees for your application either by credit or debit card through the secure server, but you can also use Paypal.
  • The right to verify and modify: Before definitively submitting your application you should check all your answers and modify them as necessary. Certain later modifications are possible using your application reference number.

To conclude, many travellers prefer to use another website instead of the official one to complete their ESTA application to avoid any possible mistakes or to benefit from supplementary advantages and assistance.

 

What alternative exists to the ESTA document for travelling to the United States?

It may be that your situation does not permit you to travel to the United States with a simple ESTA document. This concerns those who live in a country that is not a member of the ESTA visa waiver program, those that do not possess a biometric or electronic passport, those who wish to stay for longer than three months or those who plan to work on American territory.

In one or another of these cases, luckily there exists an alternative that will enable you to travel to the United States, this is the traditional visa. Even though the ESTA program was implemented to make the administrative process easier for certain people to visit the United States it still does not entirely replace the traditional visa that remains valid for all visits to the USA and is still used by many visitors.

To obtain this visa you cannot use the online procedure but will need to visit the American Embassy in your home country. There you can request an application form which you need to complete and submit together with certain justificatory documents. Your visa application will then be examined during a period of several weeks to ensure you fulfil certain conditions and criteria to enter the United States.

If your ESTA has been refused for another reason then you may also be refused a traditional visa. In fact, if your situation, your past or your morality is not in accordance with American law then you will not be able to obtain travel authorisation in any form whatsoever. For other situations the standard visa remains a possible alternative for travelling to the USA without benefitting from the online ESTA.

Online ESTA application form