In the context of the fight against terrorism and the strengthening of internal security, the United States set up an electronic travel authorization in 2009: ESTA. This temporary residence permit now allows foreign nationals from the 38 VWP (Visa Waiver Program) countries to travel to the US without applying for a visa.
The formalities required for a short stay in the USA
The US Department of Homeland Security pays particular attention to travelers wishing to enter the national territory. Whatever the reason for visiting the United States, it is always required to have a valid passport (biometric or electronic passport) and a residence permit on US soil. As such, the US has established three types of authorization: the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), the visa and the green card (or green card).
Here we will look specifically at the ESTA travel document. This one allows to travel in the United States within the framework of a tourist or professional stay (business trip) for a maximum duration of 90 days, while being exempt from American visa. In addition, if your entry on US soil is only transit, you will also be eligible for ESTA.
In addition, the US authorities require travelers to have a return ticket beforehand to prove that they have no plans to immigrate to the United States.
The formalities related to obtaining the ESTA document are simpler and faster than those required for the visa. No need to move to the US Embassy or Consulate, you will simply need to apply online by completing a form.
How to obtain the Electronic Travel Authorization for the USA?
The request for electronic travel authorization only takes place on the internet. To obtain it, you have two possibilities:
- make a request on the official website of the US government;
- make a request on a private site for personalized help.
The platforms present the document as a questionnaire. Depending on the site, the document is translated into several languages to facilitate the process. Although the information to be provided in the online form is not complicated, we advise you to answer the survey in a calm environment so as not to make any mistakes, which could lead to the refusal of your request.
The ESTA form requests various types of information. For example, you will need to provide your vital registration information or transcribe certain elements of your electronic or biometric passport (passport number, place of issue, expiry date, etc.). In a second step, you will have to specify the reason of your arrival in the USA and answer questions about your past with justice or on your current health. It is not advisable to lie at this stage, because the United States Customs and Border Protection analyzes all responses via computer systems that collect millions of data. If the computers identify an error, inconsistency or even a lie, the ESTA authorization request will simply be rejected.
In the hypothesis, where you have made a typo or poorly written your passport number, you will have the opportunity to reapply. However, you will have to pay ESTA fees again. If your ESTA is denied because of a lie, the US administration is able to permanently ban you from the visa waiver program.
To go to the USA, it is advisable to take this step several days before the travel project. The maximum deadline to apply is 72 hours before your departure.
To go to the USA, is it necessary to have electronic paper travel authorization?
As the name suggests, the electronic travel authorization is an intangible document, there is no paper version as is the case for the USA visa. Everything happens on your passport, as long as it is valid. A scan of your ID just before boarding will be enough to know if you have ESTA or not.
If the US authorities decide to issue you the ESTA, which is the case most of the time, you can travel to the United States of America as many times as you want. Nevertheless, it is imperative that each stay does not exceed three consecutive months.
If you plan a vacation in the US for a longer period, contact the consular services to apply for a tourist visa . On the other hand, this formality will be less economical and will take longer.