In which cases is the ESTA authorization mandatory?

ntroduced in 2009, as a result of the Visa Waiver Program, the ESTA authorization visa to replace the visa for certain types of stays in the US. Let’s see under what conditions the traveler who wishes to leave to the USA, must make a request for ESTA rather than American visa.

Objective of the ESTA authorization

To reinforce the surveillance on the American territory, the authorities put online this new procedure in order to know in advance the persons likely to endanger the security of the United States. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form is part of a secure computer system. Thus, US authorities can study precisely the profile of foreign nationals wishing to stay on US soil and take appropriate initiatives according to their level of danger. In addition, the ESTA authorization does not guarantee admission to the country of Uncle Sam, it is a first verification. Indeed, an additional check is usually carried out by the immigration officers at the border post. This measure makes it possible to detect undesirable persons on the territory who have not been previously reported by the computer system.

ESTA authorization: what conditions to apply for it?

Travel time

Unlike the USA visa, the ESTA authorization only applies to stays in the United States of America of short duration (90 days maximum). US authorities are very strict about this limit, if the trip exceeds 1 day more, the visa application is then mandatory.

The length of stay in the USA, is not the only criterion to determine whether the ESTA authorization is mandatory or not, we must also consider the reason for travel.

The reason for staying in the United States

US authorities require travelers to request the ESTA document for three types of stays:

  • US authorities require travelers to request the ESTA document for three types of stays:
  • business trips (conference, signing a contract, visiting a client …);
  • transit.

The nationality of the traveler

38 nationalities are eligible for the visa exemption. To qualify for ESTA, you must be a citizen of a member country of the Visa Waiver scheme. The list of states adhering to this program mainly includes Western countries (EU countries, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, etc.). If you are a French national, you are eligible for the ESTA electronic authorization.

The mode of entry on American soil

US Customs and Border Protection issues the ESTA document only when entering the territory by air or sea. If a foreign national plans to travel to the US by land, via Mexico or Canada, he / she must complete the paper form I-94W .

If all these conditions are met, then the ESTA form will be essential to visit the United States.

Advantage of the ESTA card compared to the traditional visa

Although ESTA is “mandatory”, it still has a lot of advantages over visas .

On the one hand, it allows you to travel to the United States with much more flexibility. Indeed, it is possible to apply for authorization until 72 hours before boarding, which is totally inconceivable with the visa, which requires several weeks to obtain it.

The application of ESTA is also much more practical, to get it all done remotely and in a few clicks. To request an ESTA document, simply fill out an online questionnaire. To access this ESTA form, simply visit the official US government website or any private site specifically dedicated to ESTA. In no case will it be requested to travel to the US Embassy as required for the visa.

In addition to saving time, the temporary residence permit also saves money. For information, the application for a tourist visa or business costs on average 160 dollars. The price of ESTA, meanwhile, is about ten dollars, or slightly more if you use the service of a private company to get it.

However, be careful before completing the online form, make sure you have a valid passport . It can be a biometric or electronic passport. If the expiry date has already been reached, ESTA’s online application will be totally useless since the US state requires an up-to-date passport to legally stay in Uncle Sam’s country.