Are you currently preparing your trip to the United States and, with this aim, you have submitted (or are about to) your application for ESTA authorisation? To be sure you are permitted to enter the USA you want to know if you should print this authorisation or not. Here you can find out as we will respond to this question by explaining the reasons why you may, or may not, print this official document.Apply for ESTA
Firstly, we recommend that you take a few minutes to remember how this ESTA travel authorisation system works. As indicated by its name, the ESTA procedure is an Electronic System of Travel Authorisation which therefore does not resemble the classic Visa paper document.
But the ESTA is only valid for a certain category of visitors that need to fulfil certain fixed conditions. Only the residents of one of the 22 ESTA system member countries, including the United Kingdom, can access this simplified travel authorisation procedure. It is also necessary that your visit to the USA should not exceed 90 days and you do not plan to work there. Finally, all visitors that wish to benefit from this ESTA Visa Waiver programme should hold an electronic or biometric passport which is valid for the entirety of the planned visit. We will explain more about why later on.
This basic information is important to understand why it is not necessary for you to print your ESTA.
The response to this first question is simple: In fact, it is definitely not compulsory to print any document to enter the United States. We will explain why.
Firstly, you should understand that the ESTA authorisation functions as an electronic system and therefore 100% online. This procedure has been voluntarily simplified by the American authorities to avoid processing paper applications. Once you have completed the ESTA authorisation application questionnaire on our website, this request will be sent electronically to the American authorities responsible for its validation. These immigration services then decide whether to authorise or refuse your entry and this decision is immediately registered electronically in their database.
To put it simply, your ESTA authorisation is associated with your passport number and therefore immediately recognised as soon as you present the latter on your check in for your trip and at the time of crossing the border.
It is therefore pointless to print your ESTA with the objective of presenting it on your arrival in the United States. On the other hand, no official document will be sent to you. You will simply receive an email indicating that you have obtained (or not) this travel authorisation.
As we have just seen, it is absolutely not essential to print your ESTA authorisation to travel to the USA. However, we do still advise you to print your confirmation email you received, for the logical reason that we will explain here.
On the email that you receive is your reference number. This reference number is highly important as it can prove useful later on. In fact, an ESTA authorisation is valid for a period of two years and for all trips to the USA that you may complete during this period. However, to reuse your ESTA you will need to ensure that all information entered in your file continues to be correct. If you change your passport, your address or your situation then you should simply modify your file to renew the right to travel to American territory. In this case you will simply need to visit the website where you originally submitted your application and connect to your file using the reference number you were given. This procedure is the same if you made a mistake during the completion of your application form.
It is therefore judicious to carefully keep this email and your reference number. Ensure you keep it in a safe place after printing it.
Even if you have printed your ESTA authorisation you may have lost it over time and cannot lay your hands on it although you have planned a new visit to the United States. In this case several solutions are open to you.
Firstly, you should know that if you cannot find your ESTA this doesn’t necessarily mean that you cannot visit the USA. In fact, as your authorisation is electronically linked to your electronic or biometric passport, as we have explained above, it is therefore not necessary for you to present any other document during your travel apart from this passport.
However, you will need to access your online ESTA document if you have changed your passport since your initial application or your personal information has changed. And to do so you will need your file reference number.
If you do not possess your file number then you will have to complete the form again repeating the entire procedure from the start. Of course, this also means paying the entirety of the fees for the transfer and processing of your application that will be re-examined by American immigration authorities. However it is important to know that even if you do have your file number and proceed with the necessary modifications you will still be required to pay the fees again as your application will be subject to a new complete examination by the authorities responsible for immigration.
It is therefore not a serious problem if you no longer have your ESTA as you can easily complete a new application. This new authorisation will replace the first and will again be valid for a new two year period valid for all visits to the United States that you wish to make during this period.