US entry formalities

Are you planning a trip to the United States? anticipate your trip to prepare your documents necessary for entry into the United States. Since the onset of COVID-19 and the ensuing health crisis, the formalities and conditions for entry into the United States have been modified on several occasions by the American administration. To know the latest developments in the health situation and its consequences on obtaining the ESTA and entering the USA, you can read our article on COVID and ESTA.

For a stay of less than 90 days in the United States: You can complete the formalities for entering the USA directly via the Internet by clicking on online-form. It is not necessary to obtain an appointment at the American embassy or consulate, nor to obtain a visa.

The United States is a great place to visit for tourism or business. Your stay may also be an opportunity to receive medical attention or quality higher education. Entry into the United States can be done in several ways, by obtaining:

Below we review all the information regarding the ESTA Travel Authorization. We present you his requirements, how to obtain it and the different precautions to observe for his candidacy.

What is ESTA?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a travel authorization allowing anyone wishing to visit the United States to fly or boat, after completing a prior procedure. Managed by the Homeland Security US Department , the ESTA declaration is an application for a residence permit that is only available online. Originally, this formality to enter the United States was put in place to facilitate access to US territory.

Real application for authorization of stay, the ESTA form is obligatory and requires to respect some conditions. When the conditions are not respected, the traveler must apply for a visa.

It is important to note that ESTA only represents a prior travel authorization. ESTA can not be used as a visa or guarantee entry into the United States . It is the customs officers of the United States who will decide whether or not you will be admitted to the security check once you have disembarked.

ESTA approved
ESTA approved

> What are the requirements of ESTA?

All travelers have the opportunity to submit an ESTA application. However, you must first ensure that your trip meets the following conditions, you must:

  1. Possess a valid passport when you apply until you return to France;
  2. Be a citizen of one of the 40 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program;
  3. Plan a trip of up to 90 days for tourist or business reasons;
  4. Possess an optical or biometric passport
  5. Own a return air ticket in advance of your request or a ticket specifying your destination if the USA is only one step in your journey (in case of transit);
  6. Travel with an airline recognized by the United States;
  7. Never violating US law during a past visit;
  8. Have not applied for a visa that was refused before;
  9. Fill in the ESTA application form with your information;
  10. Finally, you will have to pay a file processing fee to validate your order.

To maximize your chances of getting your ESTA authorization on time, it is best to apply at least 72 hours before you leave for the United States. Your UK ESTA  will be valid for a period of two years or until your passport expires. The validity period allows for multiple entries to the United States if future trips are planned.

Important : If your information changes during the validity of your travel authorization, such as your name, gender or passport number, it is then required to renew your request on the official ESTA website using this new data. Finally, if your project of stay in the United States does not meet these criteria, you may need to consider instead to apply for a visa for the USA .

> List of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program

Since December 1, 2021, Croatia is officially a member of the visa waiver program. Since the accession of this 40th country, the list of participating countries is as follows:

GermanySpain Liechtenstein UK
AndorraFinlandLithuania San Marino
AustraliaFranceLuxemburg Singapore
AustriaGreeceMalta Slovakia
BelgiumHungarymonaco Slovenia
BruneiIrelandNorway Sweden
ChileIcelandNew Zealand Swiss
South Korea Italy Netherlands Taiwan
Denmark JapanPortugal Poland (2019)
Estonia Latvia Rep. Czech Croatia (2021)
List of the 40 Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries

> Changes to the Visa Waiver Program in 2016

In 2016, the United States decided to make changes to the visa waiver program. These amendments were made under the ” Enhancing the Visa Waiver Program and the Prevention of Terrorist Travel ” Act, 2015 . Since the enactment of this law, some travelers are no longer eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

The groups of people affected by this change are:

> What are the questions asked during an ESTA application?

ESTA official website – Start the online application

If you wish to apply for ESTA, a form with several fields to fill out will be submitted. The questions are about your personal information in the following topics:

At the end of the questionnaire, a last box must be ticked. It allows to attest that you have read and understood the whole questionnaire.

> What is the price to pay for an ESTA authorization?

To stay in the United States with an ESTA authorization, you will have to pay an administrative fee when validating the file. These $ 14 processing fees are broken down into two parts:

When you call for a private help desk, you have to pay an extra cost. The private assistance companies charge you their fees in addition to the 14 dollars of compulsory taxes paid to the administration. These additional support costs correspond to the payment of additional services provided.

> What is the validity period of an ESTA authorization

ESTA is valid for 2 years from the date of issue. In order to travel with an ESTA authorization, your personal information must be up to date. If changes occur during these two years in your marital status (last name, first name, gender …) or your medical and judicial history, you are required to make a new request for ESTA. Similarly, if your electronic or biometric passport expires before the end of two years, you must renew your authorization.

On the other hand, if your ESTA form expires during your stay, you will not be worried during the return trip by boat or plane; the document is only requested when departing to the United States. ESTA allows you to stay on American soil for up to 90 consecutive days.

If you want to go back to the United States during these two years, it’s possible; however you will have to respect a period of 3 months before returning. Otherwise, if you do not want to submit to this waiting period between two stays, you will have to turn to another solution, apply for a tourist visa or a green card for example.

> Do children need an ESTA?

ESTA is a necessary prior authorization for anyone considering traveling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. This concerns people of all ages, starting with infants, children, adults and the elderly. There is no exception to this rule, even children who do not necessarily need a passport must have an ESTA approved approval.

In this situation, parents are strongly advised to apply for a group and include in their approach the request for their children. The procedure is the same for everyone, there is only one form and one single procedure for an adult or a child, the request for an ESTA for a child is the same as for a child. adult.

Is ESTA the equivalent of a visa?

If you plan to go to the United States, you must have a residence permit: it can be an ESTA or a visa , or a permanent resident card. The three documents are different, they are not obtained in the same way and do not address the same profiles.

  1. ESTA: In the context of a short-term stay, the simplest and least expensive document is the ESTA authorization. It allows you to stay in the United States for a maximum of 90 consecutive days, whether for touristic or professional reasons. Simply fill out a form with questions about your marital status, your medical and judicial history. Once your application has been validated by the US Homeland Security Service, you will receive your document very quickly by email. In less than 72 hours and in most cases the same day. The ESTA declaration does not allow for on-site work, receiving any remuneration or taking courses to obtain a diploma.
  2. The american visa is for people wishing to stay in the United States for a longer period. The process, rather tedious, requires to move in an embassy. The price of the document is more than 160 dollars on average whatever the VISA requested.
  3. The Permanent Resident Card, named Green Card, is hard to obtain. It is aimed at people who wish to settle in the United States for a long time, for family or professional reasons. Asylum seekers can also use it.

> What can I do with an ESTA?

Attention should be paid to activities permitted under the Visa Waiver Program before making the choice to apply for an ESTA to travel to the United States. Indeed the ESTA does not allow you to do everything on the American territory, you can have the following activities:

> The limitations of ESTA

The simple ESTA Travel Authorization under the Visa Waiver Program does not allow for all the activities that one might want in the United States. Before starting your ESTA process, you should consult the list of activities you are not allowed to do with ESTA:

How to apply for ESTA on the Internet

The process of getting your ESTA online is getting longer as the years go by, so the number of fields you fill out continues to grow. This approach is the first administrative step of your entry into the US, so it is particularly important to start your tourist or professional stay. Making your application for ESTA online requires taking a number of precautions.

> Precautions to correctly fulfill your request

The request for ESTA can only be made on the Internet on the dedicated website of the US administration , the online form to obtain an ESTA consists of 3 separate parts:

  1. The first part contains questions about your identity: last name, first name, date and place of birth, sex, etc;
  2. The second part concerns information about your passport and the reason for your trip;
  3. The third part comes in the form of a series of questions where you simply have to answer yes or no. You will be asked to provide certain information about your present and past health status, as well as your criminal record.

Entering the form to get your official ESTA, however, remains the most crucial step. The US government insists on the importance of providing accurate and truthful information in order to obtain this travel authorization. Take care to fill out the ESTA form with special attention for the first and second parts. Indeed, a simple typing error can compromise the acceptance of your request. In general, the most common mistake that results in a denial of your ESTA authorization is to enter the wrong passport number. Be sure to check your information and correct it if necessary before validating your request. When everything seems correct, you just need to validate and pay the fees on the next page. Once your ESTA authorization is in your pocket, your journey can begin!

Important Information : By checking the boxes of acceptance of the conditions of submission of your application for ESTA, you also agree to waive the right to challenge any decision made by immigration officers upon your arrival on US soil.

The information mentioned on ESTA must be up to date and correspond to reality. So if changes occur in your marital status, your health or your medical and judicial history, you are required to make a new ESTA authorization request.

Other information to consider, once your application approved, only your email address and the physical address that you go to the United States can be changed.

> Why get help for your ESTA application

You are about to travel to the United States, you need to plan your trip and make sure everything is going well. Access to US territory is taken very seriously by the Homeland Security Department and the US Customs and Boders teams. The process of obtaining your ESTA should be prepared to ensure the peace of mind of a transition to Customs managed without stress.

If you make the choice to use a third party company to organize your stay in the US, the benefits include all online procedures including collection of your personal information and verification. The service provider pays the taxes required to complete your ESTA request and send it by email, the service provided to you includes:

Since the procedure is fully computerized, you are not legally required to print the document for presentation to the authorities upon your arrival in the United States. However, to leave more calmly, our team advises you to keep a hard copy .

The majority of ESTA requests refused by the US authorities are linked to seizure errors. By calling in professionals who are used to the process of obtaining ESTA, you limit the risk of errors and therefore refusals that could delay the receipt of your authorization, which is mandatory for a trip to the United States. in the absence of a visa.

Important : Also note that in case of refusal, you must respect a period of 10 days before making a new request for ESTA. So if your departure is near, a helpdesk can be the solution that allows you to leave serenely in the United States.

> Use an ESTA form in French

Completing a form can be a complex exercise, especially if it is in a foreign language! Are you afraid of filling out your ESTA application form ? Do not worry, there is a English-speaker form.

Once your ESTA is obtained, take the time as a precaution to print it. If at the time of your departure your ESTA is lost , it does not matter. It is not mandatory to travel with ESTA proof. You are registered electronically with the US administration as having completed this formality.

ESTA refused, what can I do?

Your ESTA authorization is denied ? First and foremost, you must carefully check all the information you have entered: marital status, passport number, return ticket with a stay of less than 90 days, transport company recognized by the program … The slightest mistake in the answers to the questionnaire can generate a refusal of authorization ESTA. And in this context, it will be necessary to respect a delay of 10 days before making a new request. By choosing to use our services, you benefit from the experience of professionals who can carry out this verification for you.

A refusal by ESTA may also be motivated by the government’s desire to preserve the country’s internal security. If you have committed serious crimes or misdemeanors, US immigration authorities may decide to refuse your application.

If after verification, you find that your form has no error and you have no judicial record, we advise you to go to the consulate or embassy to make a tourist visa application.

For example, you can apply for a B2 visa (tourist stay) or a B1 visa (business stay) that will allow you to go to the United States for a maximum of 6 months.

You can also apply for a Green card if your profile matches one of the following categories: asylum seeker, family ties with a US citizen, concrete job offer …

How to modify his ESTA USA

First of all you need to know that changing your ESTA is only possible in some cases. If you have not yet validated the form, you can change the data entered. If you have already received your authorization ESTA, know that only the addresses communicated can be changed (mail and place of residence in the United States).

However, if your personal information is no longer relevant (changes concerning your marital status, your criminal record …) or your passport has expired, you must renew your ESTA and pay a processing fee. Indeed, the ESTA having a validity of two years, it sometimes happens that your information must be updated. We advise you to check before departure the accuracy of these. US authorities that are very involved in maintaining internal security, especially since terrorism-related matters, could prevent you from entering the United States if they find conflicting information.

Also, keep in mind that the ESTA authorization only allows for a stay of up to 90 consecutive days. You must leave the United States at the end of this period. If you do not respect this prerequisite, you could in case of control, be accused of illegal immigration.

Organize your trip to the USA

In order to leave peacefully in the United States, take the time to organize your stay. Once you have completed the formalities of entry into the territory, you can devote yourself to the most enjoyable part: the route you want to perform. The US territory being very vast, you have an extensive choice of cities to visit, among which: