How long does it take to obtain an ESTA authorisation?

Rating: 3.89 19 votes
How long does it take to obtain an ESTA authorisation?

A trip to the United States, even for just a few days, should be planned in advance for a number of reasons. The first is of course relative to organising your stay itself, and the second, that you have all necessary documents and authorisations to visit the USA including the famous ESTA. Here we offer you information on the time required to obtain the ESTA to ensure you can enjoy your visit in peace.


Reminder concerning the ESTA and its function:

Before studying the ESTA Visa Waiver programme it is important to remember what exactly this electronic travel authorisation system actually represents and explain if you can benefit from it. In fact, the processing time for an ESTA is far less than that of a traditional visa application and you should remember this before starting the application procedure.

The ESTA programme was implemented through an agreement between the USA and 22 other member countries. It enables certain visitors from these countries to travel to America without requiring a visa. To travel to the United States it is necessary to hold an ESTA or a visa. However the ESTA is subject to certain conditions and requirements as follows:

Firstly you will need to hold a valid biometric or electronic passport that is also valid during your entire visit to the United States. It is this passport number that will be electronically or digitally linked to your ESTA authorisation. It is therefore imperative that the passport number that you enter on your application is the same you will use when boarding for your visit to the United States.

Also, the length of your visit to the United States cannot exceed 90 days per visit. For longer visits you will absolutely need to obtain a traditional visa.

Finally, your visit to the USA can only be for reasons of tourism or business, under no circumstances can you work on American territory using this travel authorisation.

If you fulfil all the previously stated conditions then you will normally be entitled to an ESTA. You simply need to complete the online application form that you can easily find on our website which will enable you to receive a rapid response.


What is the information necessary to receive an ESTA?

As we briefly explained earlier, to receive an ESTA authorisation it is above all necessary to fulfil the conditions to access this simplified system, this means being a resident of one of the system member countries, plan to visit the United States for a stay of less than 90 days, and possess a valid passport.

You should also complete the online application form using a website such as ours which will transfer your application to the American authorities. On this form you will need to enter certain information without which your application will not be processed. This includes:

  • A valid email address. It is to this address that the response to your ESTA application will be sent. It is therefore highly important.
  • Your passport number. Your ESTA, once it has been obtained, will be automatically and digitally linked to your passport number. You should therefore verify that this passport covers the departure and return dates of your visit.
  • Full details concerning your identity including your first and last names as well as the date and place of your birth. For married women you can state either your maiden name or your married name, it is for you to choose as long as the same name is on your passport.
  • Finally, other questions will be asked relative to your state of health, any problems with the law and your intentions relative to your planned visit. It is imperative that you truthfully answer all the questions to be able to obtain your ESTA.

If you encounter difficulties replying to one or more of the questions asked do not hesitate to consult the many varied articles and advice available on our website.


At which time is it recommended to apply for an ESTA?

Earlier we noted that that ESTA enables you to significantly shorten the procedure for visiting the United States and in fact when you submit your application online the maximum response time is 72 hours. It can therefore be tempting to submit your application just a few days before your departure date. However it is not advisable to apply so late for several reasons.

In certain cases obtaining your travel authorisation to the USA can actually take more time than these three days processing time and in this case your travel plans may be seriously affected. This is particularly the case if your ESTA application is refused.

In fact, imagine that you made a mistake when completing your ESTA application form online. In this case, if you submitted your application, this will probably be refused and maybe you wish to correct these mistakes to avoid any problems at the borders. If you have to reapply for an ESTA you will need to wait for at least ten days after receiving your refusal notification.

Another example concerning a refused ESTA application can be that the reason for the visit does not correspond to the conditions relative to this system. In this precise situation you may apply for a traditional visa to be able to continue with your travel plans if you possess the legal documents required. However a visa application generally takes longer to process than an ESTA which can be perilous to your travel plans if you do not apply well in advance.

Concerning the different examples quoted, it is highly recommended to apply for your ESTA well in advance to ensure your travel plans continue unimpeded. We therefore recommend that you proceed with this application at least two or three weeks before your departure date. However it is also not judicious to apply too early either. This is because your ESTA authorisation is valid for two years following its confirmation and you therefore decrease any future travel opportunities by obtaining it too early.


What is the response delay from the American authorities?

Once you have duly completed your ESTA authorisation application form online you will need to submit and validate it by paying for the administrative fees. It is only when you have paid these fees that your application is sent to the American authorities responsible for studying your application.

The maximum time taken for the processing of your application and therefore the response time is 72 hours from the time of payment. Of course the time taken is often less and you could receive your authorisation in only a few hours by email.

However if for one reason or another your application is refused you should know that you will need to wait for at least 10 days before reapplying for your ESTA. It is therefore recommended that that you start the ESTA procedure at least two weeks before your departure date.


What are the different possible responses to your ESTA application?

When you complete the online application form and you submit it after completing payment of the costs and fees this will be quickly transmitted to the relevant American authorities. This is why you will not obtain an immediate response on the website through which you have submitted your application. The response to your ESTA application will in fact be sent by email to the address you stated when completing the questionnaire. You can also consult the status directly through the official American government website using your application reference number.

The response to your ESTA application will state one of three possible status notifications as follows:

  • Authorisation granted: This means that you have obtained the famous ESTA authorisation which is now electronically or digitally linked to your passport number. You are therefore free to visit the United States without any further procedures to complete and this for a period of two years.
  • Authorisation refused: The answers you submitted to the questions on your application do not entitle you to visit the United States with an ESTA. In this case you may be able to apply for a traditional visa.
  • Authorisation pending: This status means that your application is under consideration and being processed and may require further verification. You will shortly receive a definitive response to your application.


What should I do if I haven’t received my ESTA in time?

If you have followed the advice as above then you should receive your ESTA authorisation within the time period. If this is not the case then you may possibly have made an error when you completed the application form.

It is therefore recommended to confirm that the payment for the administrative fees has been validated by your bank if you paid by credit card or bank transfer, or that your cheque has been received by the beneficiary. It is in fact not recommended to use the latter form of payment as it can be long and less secure.

Or maybe you just simply forgot to submit your application form. In this case you should return to the website where you completed it and complete the procedure.


Advice summary to obtain an ESTA within the time period:

To avoid having to delay your travel plans due to the non arrival of your ESA authorisation within the stipulated time follow this advice:

  • Begin the ESTA authorisation application procedure at least two weeks before your departure ensuring you have your biometric or electronic passport close to hand.
  • Ensure you have carefully read and submitted your application form.
  • Favour payment by credit card as processing is faster and more secure.
  • Check that the sum paid has been debited from your bank account.
  • Finally, if you have missed out one of the steps cited above, do not waste any time, restart the ESTA application procedure from the beginning, unless you already have an ESTA reference number.


The validity period of your ESTA authorisation:

As you will discover, the time required to obtain your ESTA authorisation is extremely short and in general it only takes a few hours before your receive your ESTA authorisation response by email. But the time taken for its authorisation and the time it can be used for should not be confused.

In fact, once you have obtained your ESTA authorisation you will be able to use it for a period of two years for one or several visits to the United States as the ESTA scheme has a validity period of two years for this travel authorisation with the same conditions valid for one or several visits.

This means that your ESTA is automatically linked to your biometric or electronic passport for a period of two years from obtaining it. It is however necessary that the information you have given in your application form during its completion is still valid at the time of your visit or visits. Therefore, if you change your identity, address or passport number then you will need to reapply for an ESTA authorisation to be able to travel to the USA, even if the validity period is still current.


When is the best time to make an ESTA application:

We have indicated above that the ESTA application receives a response within a maximum of 72 hours following the confirmation of your application. However, if your application is refused you will need to reapply online respecting the 10 day delay relating to its initial refusal. In certain cases you will have to apply for a traditional visa which can take much longer.

To avoid these possibilities we recommend that you complete your ESTA application at least one month before your departure date for the United States in order to facilitate the preparations for your visit.

Online ESTA application form