How long is an ESTA valid for?

If you plan to shortly take your first trip to the United States or visit the USA again then you should be aware that an ESTA authorisation, once obtained, can be used for a number of visits. However it is also important to understand that there is a difference between the duration and the time or validity period of this authorisation. To understand these different time periods and therefore best use your ESTA for one or several trips to the United States here are some practical explanations.  

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What is the validity period of an ESTA for a visit?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization, the ESTA, was implemented in 2009 to enable citizens from program member countries to simplify the procedure necessary for obtaining a visa.

However this new system only functions under certain specific conditions. Therefore you can only use an ESTA authorisation to travel to the United States only if your planned stay is of less than three months. For a longer stay you will have to complete a different procedure to obtain a long stay visa.

You should understand that the length of your stay is limited to three months or 90 days, whatever the reason for your visit to the USA. You cannot stay for longer with an ESTA whether you are on holiday or visiting for business.


What is the validity period of an ESTA?

Although the period of stay authorised by an ESTA is 90 days, once this authorisation has been granted it can be used numerous times, in other words for several trips to the USA. The ESTA authorisation is actually issued for a two year duration. This means it is valid for two years from its date of issue (not from the date of your first trip).

If you have already obtained an ESTA authorisation for travel to the United States less than two years ago and you wish to return there for a visit then you do not need to recommence the complete ESTA application procedure.

In all cases, it is important to verify that none of your personal information has changed since your last visit. Notably if you have renewed your passport and it has a different number but also if other personal information has changed it is imperative that you update all relevant details on your ESTA document before reusing it.

After this period has ended, no trace will be kept by the American authorities of your previous travel authorisations.  You will therefore need to return to a website such as ours to make a fresh application by again completing and submitting the online questionnaire. Of course, all fees related to the application need to be paid again, even if none of your personal information has changed between times.

To summarise, it is important to carefully prepare for your next trip to the USA by taking into account the duration and validity period of your ESTA.


In which cases is the validity period of your ESTA shortened?

As we have just examined, the validity period of an ESTA authorisation is two years from the issue or confirmation date. However, in certain cases it is still necessary to reapply for an ESTA even though the two year expiry date of this original ESTA has not been reached.

The first thing that can shorten the validity period of your ESTA is of course the expiry or invalidity of your passport. If the passport you used to complete your initial ESTA application has reached its expiry date or has been lost then you can no longer use your ESTA authorisation to visit the USA. This is because an ESTA authorisation is digitally or electronically linked to a single passport number. When you renew your passport this number changes and therefore the ESTA is no longer linked to it. This is why it is extremely important that you reapply for an ESTA online to obtain a new travel authorisation that is linked to your new passport.

In the same way, your ESTA is only issued after an examination of the information you supplied when completing the application form online. If this information changes then your ESTA is considered as invalid by the immigration authorities and even by the airline company which has the right to verify the information you have given. Luckily certain simple information such as a change of postal address or your destination can be modified online without having to complete the entire ESTA application procedure again including the payment of the transfer and processing fees and costs. To modify your ESTA in this way you will need your application reference number which was provided on your initial application. You can then modify the information concerned and continue to use your ESTA until its expiry date after two years without the need for a new application. Of course, this process will not lengthen the validity period of your authorisation.

In other cases, and if the information that has changed is sufficiently significant to require a new examination of your application, then you will not be able to continue using your ESTA until the end of its two year validity period and you will be required to apply for a new one.


How do I know if my ESTA is still valid?

You are planning a further visit to the United States and you remember having already completed the application procedure for an ESTA travel authorisation a while ago? In this case you may not need to complete the ESTA authorisation application procedure online again. However, to ensure that your travel arrangements are problem free you should verify that your authorisation is still valid.

More precisely, the validity period of your ESTA should at least cover your departure date for the USA. But how do you know if your ESTA is still valid? There are several ways to find the answer to this:

  • You can consult your ESTA file by visiting the official American website using your file number. In this way you can also verify the current status of your authorisation and its validity period.
  • You can also check in your email inbox for the email that was sent to you granting your travel authorisation following your initial application. The date of this email corresponds to the start date of your ESTA validity period. Therefore you simply need to add two years to this date to obtain the expiry date of its validity.  

Unfortunately if you do not remember your ESTA number or you have lost it and deleted the confirmation email that you received following your initial application then you will need to reapply, even if your current ESTA authorisation is still valid.


When do you need to reapply for an ESTA that is still technically valid?

In certain situations an ESTA authorisation can still be valid relating to its validity period but will still need to be renewed. This mainly concerns changes in the information that was given during your initial application. You will therefore need to reapply if any of the following situations occurs:

  • If you have changed your passport and therefore your passport number as it is this number that is digitally linked to your ESTA authorisation.
  • You have changed your identity, name or have moved as well as any other change in the information given related to your identity or situation.
  • One of the answers given to the questions in the application form is no longer correct. All the questions are important when applying for an ESTA and the answers should therefore always be current and valid. In the case whereby there is a change it is necessary to update the information with a new application.
  • Finally, if you have changed your email address it will be necessary to change this information in your ESTA file, but without having to reapply for an authorisation.  

To reapply for an ESTA before the end of its validity period you will need to again complete the application form in its entirety and again pay all the fees and costs related to the transfer and processing of your application. The response will be sent to you by email within 72 hours.


Is an ESTA authorisation renewed automatically at the end of its validity period?

Contrary to certain other online services, the ESTA is not a subscription and is therefore not renewable after the end of its two year period of validity. In fact this usage period of two years has been carefully calculated and chosen to guarantee the security of the United States and respect the rules fixed by the immigration authorities. The American government therefore decided that it should be necessary to re-examine each travel request to American territory every two years.

When your travel authorisation arrives at its expiry date you will need to complete a new application for the authorities by completing and submitting a new application form online, replying to all the questions asked.


When to renew an ESTA that has just expired?

If you need to renew your ESTA as it is approaching its expiry date then it is obviously best to do so at the right time. It is in fact pointless to renew your ESTA as soon as it reaches its expiry date if you do not plan on using it in the near future. It should be remembered that your new authorisation will again be valid for a two year period and you will have to reapply when this period has finished. You will also have to pay the associated costs again of course.

Ideally it is therefore best to wait until you plan your next visit in order to complete your application at a time when it is truly useful. It is recommended that you start the procedure a few weeks before your planned departure date to be sure that you can obtain this authorisation in plenty of time and preferably a maximum of two weeks before your visit.


The steps to follow when your ESTA approaches its expiry date

If you do not wish to visit the USA in the short term then, as we have explained, it is pointless to undertake the procedure to obtain a new ESTA. But when the time is right then you will need to follow exactly the same procedure as for your initial application.

You should therefore visit a website such as ours that offers you the opportunity of completing the ESTA application form in your own language and allow yourself to be guided through the various steps of the application.

Do not forget to carefully check the validity of your passport and ensure you have your passport number close at hand as it will be required when completing the form. You will also again be required to complete all the questions on the form as if it was your first application. No information is actually stored by the authorities after the two year validity period has ended. Again, it is important to take your time to carefully verify all your answers before submitting the application form for the official authorities.

You will also be required to complete payment of the fees and costs in order to submit your application for transfer to the relevant authorities. To do so you can use your bank debit or credit card or pay through your Paypal account. Payment is made on a secure server to avoid any possibility of fraud. The amount of this payment cannot be reduced as this is still considered as a new application even though it may seem like a renewal.

You will then receive a response to your application by email at the address you gave on your application. This address can be different to that used on your first application. Your new ESTA will again be valid for two years.

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