Is the ESTA document required to travel to the USA?

Since the beginning of 2009, all residents of Visa Waiver Program (Visa Waiver Program) countries must apply for a travel authorization to travel to the US. As part of this procedure, they must complete the ESTA form, available exclusively online. This travel authorization has some specificities, however, it only applies to stays in the USA of 90 days maximum, it can be a business trip or a tourist visit.

The different travel authorizations in the USA

Any entry into the United States is subject to authorization. With this in mind, the US authorities make available to foreign nationals three residence permits:

  • the permanent resident card. Called green card or green card, it allows to live and work in the United States sustainably;
  • the American visa. In reality, there are dozens of visas, each applies to a specific case and has its own characteristics in terms of validity or renewal. The most common are the tourist visa, work and student, they correspond respectively to visa B2, H1B and F1.
  • the ESTA document. This is a temporary residence permit that only applies to 38 nationalities.

Let’s look at the latter authorization since it is the most common and the most accessible.

ESTA document: mandatory or not?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) was created by the US Department of Homeland Security ( DHS ) to strengthen security measures related to entry into the United States. In addition, it helps relieve the American administrative reducing the formalities to stay in the US.

If you plan to go to the USA to visit New York, discover the West or make a road trip all over the country, you will have to apply for ESTA. In fact, regardless of the place of visit, the ESTA document applies to all tourist trips, provided that their duration does not exceed 90 consecutive days. It’s the same if you go to the US to sign a new lucrative contract or visit your best customer, know that the business trip is also affected by ESTA authorization.

The reason for the stay is an essential element in determining whether the temporary residence permit applies to you, but this is not the only characteristic to consider. Before applying for ESTA, check that your country is present in the Visa Waiver Program member list. If you are French or European citizen , we reassure you, you are eligible for ESTA.

On the other hand, if you have the dual nationality of one of the following countries (Iraq, Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Souda, Yemen), the US administration will probably refuse to grant you permission to travel to the United States. The visa application will be required for you to go to the United States. For more details on this step, do not hesitate to contact the consulate or the American embassy.

Finally, to choose your travel authorization, it is necessary to keep the means of transport by which you arrive in the country of Uncle Sam. If you arrive on the national territory by plane or by boat, the electronic authorization is obligatory. If, on the other hand, you access the United States of America by land, the agents of the border post will request to complete the form I-94W.

Obtaining the mandatory ESTA USA

The application for an ESTA USA is via a form to be completed online, by the traveler concerned or by a third party. The ESTA form is composed of several fields to fill in links with:

  • the civil status (surname, first name, date of birth, etc.);
  • the passport (date of issue, country of issue, passport number …);
  • the reason for the stay in the USA;

The ESTA questionnaire ends with a series of 9 questions to answer yes or no. The purpose of this section is simply to allow US Customs and Border Protection to judge whether you represent a risk to the domestic security of the country. For example, you will be asked if you have a criminal record or if you have ever traveled to one of the “Muslim Ban” countries listed above.

To make your request, you have the choice between completing the form on the official website of the US Government or on a private site providing you with a personalized help service.

When you have finished answering all the questions, you will have to pay ESTA fees. Once you have paid the amount due, your file is officially transmitted to the US authorities.

At this point, it is simply required to wait a maximum of 72 hours to get an answer on the status of your online application.

ESTA admission: the different statuses

If an ESTA authorization is approved, you can travel to the US without a limit for two years or when the biometric or electronic passport expires, if it expires before. The only restrictive condition is the length of stay, which must be less than or equal to 90 days.

Possession of an ESTA authorization does not necessarily mean that the traveler qualifies for the USA. It only allows boarding an airline or a shipping company. Only immigration officers can vote for you to cross the border.

Sometimes the status of your application is “pending”, which means that your file is undergoing further investigation or the total number of requests is high. If this happens to you, be aware that a final opinion is delivered within 72 hours.

Finally, a rejected ESTA authorization is not a definitive ban on residence in the United States. A new request can be made in case of error or forgetfulness, otherwise a visa application can be sent to the consular services or to the US Embassy.