Children: Do they need ESTA authorisation?

Are you planning to travel shortly to the United States with your family? Maybe you already know that you will need to apply for ESTA authorisation for you and other adults in your group, but what about the children? As we shall look at here, children also need their own ESTA authorisation to be entitled to travel to the USA. We explain how to apply for travel authorisation for a minor and which documents you will need for this visit.  

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How to obtain ESTA authorisation for a child?

An ESTA authorisation application for a child is therefore obligatory, even for a young child, in the same way as for an adult and for any travel to or via the United States. As a result, this authorisation will also be required for you and your family for a stopover or transit via the USA.

To obtain this ESTA authorisation for your children you will have to follow the same procedure as with your own application. Of course you should explain in the application that you are the responsible adult for this or these children. To simplify this procedure it is best to create all ESTA applications from the same website and commence the procedure as a group. In this way, the decisions of the American authorities concerning your application and those of your children will be transmitted at the same time.

The questions you will be asked in the online form that you need to complete for your children are of course slightly different to those relating to you. You should therefore pay extremely careful attention when you supply the necessary information. Do not forget of course to have your children’s passport numbers close to hand.


Which documents are required for a child travelling to the United States?

As you have probably understood from the preceding information, ESTA authorisation should definitely not be overlooked for your children when preparing a visit to the United States. However this is not the only administrative constraint.

Clearly, your child should have their own biometric or electronic passport, which is valid for the entirety of the visit. It is also important to check that the full names, including first names, of your children are printed on all travel documents such as the flight ticket or other documents, even if the children are registered on your tickets or documents. If this is not the case then ask your travel company or agency to amend them as necessary.

Please note that ESTA authorisation for a child incurs the same payment amount as for an adult as the costs of transferring and processing the application by the American immigration services are the same. The same is true for the validity period and response time.


Can a minor complete their own ESTA application?

As we examined earlier, children, whatever their age, are also required to obtain an ESTA travel authorisation to visit the United States. But in this case how should the application be completed and at what age can a child complete the application procedure for an ESTA for themselves?

You may have noticed that when you completed your own ESTA application that this form is only to be used by adults of at least 18 years of age. This does not mean that you cannot use it to obtain travel authorisations for your children but that the information given and the responses to the questions asked should be confirmed by an adult.

Therefore, if a child completes their ESTA application alone then it will automatically be refused. To complete this application for your child you simply need to use the standard questionnaire but ensure you tick the box at the end of the form stating that the application was completed by a third party. Of course, the information given on the form as responses regarding the applicant’s identity should correspond to the child for whom you are completing the application and not yourself.

Another simple way of applying for ESTAs for your children if you plan to visit the United States with them, for which you will of course need a travel authorisation yourself as well, is to complete an ESTA group application.

This is actually possible and enables you to complete all the questionnaires for you and your children. Do however ensure that you have enough time to complete the procedure which will take you maybe quarter to half an hour depending on the number of family members.

If you have forgotten to tick the box indicating that you are completing the ESTA application for your child and you thereby obtain a refusal then you still have the possibility of repeating a valid application and simply need to wait for 10 days after the refusal notification email. Although this does of course incur another payment as you will have to complete the entire procedure again including full payment of the transfer and processing costs and fees, certain service providers such as our independent partner enable you to claim a refund in the case of a refusal if you have completed your application through their website.


From what age should a child obtain an ESTA authorisation in their name to visit the USA?

Certain parents also wonder if they need to obtain an ESTA authorisation for babies or very young children of less than two years old. In fact, with certain administrative procedures or situations very young children can benefit from advantageous tariffs or be automatically registered with their parents.

However, this is not the case with the ESTA electronic system of travel authorisation which is perfectly clear on this subject. Any person, adult or child, who wishes to travel to the USA needs to obtain a travel authorisation. And this is the case whatever the age of the visitor. In the same way, you should also obtain an individual passport in the name of your child before travelling, even if it is for a baby, as the travel authorisation will be digitally linked to this passport number.


The particular case of children that do not have the same family name as the parent travelling with them:

In certain particular situations such as following a divorce or where the child is travelling with their grandparents or other adults that are not their parents then they will need to provide other official documents for the children to ensure that they can enter the United States with them easily.

In all cases, if the child is travelling alone without their parents then a letter of authorisation to leave the country signed by the parents or legal guardians of the child together with copies of their passports or identity cards will be required for passage through border controls.

This is equally the case for children that travel alone with one of their parents, particularly if their family name is not the same as that of the parent they are travelling with. This may be the case for example following a divorce where the mother has resumed her maiden name. In this case it is highly advisable to carry a letter of authorisation to leave the country signed by the other parent and a copy of their passport or identity card.

To avoid any problems when boarding or on your arrival in the United States do ensure that you carry all pertinent documents with you that may be required. We therefore recommend that you carry with you, when possible, birth certificates and other legal documents that will attest to your parental ties to the children that accompany you and ensure that the full names of your children appear on their travel documents such as flight tickets as well as their passports.

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