ESTA Questions and Answers
You have decided to travel to the United States for tourism or business and you probably have questions about the ESTA travel authorization process. You will find in this section the main questions asked concerning this precious document to be accepted on the American territory.
What is ESTA?
ESTA for “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” is the American electronic travel authorization system derived from the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It allows nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States more easily without having to apply for a visa.
Who should apply for ESTA?
The ESTA must be done by all persons wishing to travel to the United States regardless of their age, the means of transportation used (boat or plane) and wishing to stay less than 90 days.
I got my ESTA so I will be admitted on the American soil?
Despite the fact that you have obtained your authorization, there is no guarantee that you will be admitted to the country. An immigration officer will check you once you land and may refuse entry if he or she believes you are not in compliance with U.S. laws.
Does an ESTA replace a visa?
The ESTA and the VISA are two separate documents, one not being a substitute for the other. If a visa is required for your travels, the ESTA authorization cannot replace it. Note that if you already have a VISA you can do without the ESTA.
How long is an ESTA authorization valid for?
Your ESTA authorization is valid for 2 years from the date of issue. However, it becomes null and void if the information in the passport used to complete your application changes or if it expires.
When should I apply for ESTA?
The U.S. authorities recommend that you apply for ESTA as soon as possible, even before you have planned your itinerary. They also state that a request can be reviewed for up to 72 hours before a response is provided. So, although the answer can be given in a few minutes, we recommend that you respect this time frame.
Do I have to justify the reason for my trip in order to obtain an ESTA?
No, it is not necessary to specify the purpose of your visit to the United States. Although the form has fields asking for this information, there is no requirement to fill them out. So, if you don’t want to provide this information or simply haven’t planned your trip yet, feel free to leave these fields blank.
Do I need to apply for ESTA authorization if I am only transiting through the United States?
It is necessary to have a valid ESTA or VISA even if you are only making a stopover on American soil to transit to another destination. When filling out the form, you must specify that your request is for an ESTA Transit.
What is the Visa Waiver Program and who is it for?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program set up by the U.S. authorities to facilitate travel to the United States for nationals of participating countries. It allows for any stay of less than 90 days to be exempted from applying for a VISA.
Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program?
Here is the list of countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program:
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ESTA Canada or ESTA Europe
In recent years, Canada has implemented an eTA Canada. This is a travel authorization similar to the ESTA application. Europe is also studying a project to set up a European ESTA in the next few years in order to reinforce entry into the European Union territories.
My ESTA expires before the end of my stay, is that a problem?
It is not necessary to have a valid authorization when leaving the country. It only needs to be valid at the time of your arrival, however, you should not exceed the 90 day period in the USA.
Do I need to print my ESTA authorization?
The ESTA is a fully computerized process. U.S. authorities and transportation companies will be informed of your clearance to travel to the United States. Nevertheless, for the sake of convenience and security, we recommend that you print your ESTA to keep proof of your authorization with you and to prevent any possible computer breakdown.
What are the requirements for ESTA authorization?
In order to obtain your ESTA authorization, you must meet certain prerequisites:
- Possess a passport issued by one of the VWP member countries
- Possess an electronic or biometric passport
- Plan a stay of less than 90 days
- Have a return ticket or a ticket to another country
How much does an ESTA application cost?
There is a fee for the ESTA application. At a minimum, the applicant will have to pay the administrative fees required by the U.S. authorities, to which may be added the fees related to private assistance services.
What if my ESTA application is denied?
Unfortunately an ESTA is not obtained automatically, it happens that the ESTA application is refused. If you find yourself in this situation, you will need to apply for a VISA. Contact the U.S. Embassy for more information on this process.