ESTA: The official document for the United States

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.

Online ESTA application form