ESTA Guidelines for Children Travelling to US
If you are planning a family trip to the US then there are plenty of factors that you will need to consider from your flight schedule through to arranging travel authorization for your group. If you are travelling to the US, then you should bear in mind that authorization to enter the country is different than some of the countries that you may have visited before. When travelling to the United States, you must obtain travel authorization before you travel, which may be in the form of an ESTA.
An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) enables travel to the US for a period of up to 90 days. It forms part of the Visa Waiver Program arranged by the US government. The application process can be completed online in a fairly straightforward process, where you must answer a number of questions to ascertain whether you will be granted permission to enter the US.
When you are taking your children to the US, it is important that you also apply for an ESTA for them to travel. Essentially, you will need to apply for children’s ESTAs in the same way that you apply for your own. Anyone under the age of 18 must get an adult to complete their application by answering the questions in the questionnaire. Alternatively, you can complete an ESTA group application to include your entire family to make everything a bit easier.
Children must have their own valid passport to able to qualify for an ESTA and cannot be included on your passport. When you are applying for an ESTA , whether collectively or individually, it is important to apply at least 72 hours before you are travelling.
How to apply for your child’s ESTA
Before your planned family holiday or trip to visit relatives in the US, you should fill in the online ESTA form for each member of your family. Every individual must have their own separate ESTA and this includes even babies and young children.
Parents and legal guardians are able to fill in the application form on behalf of children and you will just need to disclose that information in the relevant section.
The form contains a series of questions that must be carefully completed, which include name, address, date of birth, passport details and medical details. Once you have completed your child’s ESTA application, you can pay the application fee and submit the application. Each member of the family that you send an application for will have their own unique reference number.Apply for ESTA
Children with different surnames to parent/guardian they are travelling with
In the circumstance where a child does not have the same family name as the person they are travelling with, supporting documents such as the birth certificate is required to prove the relationship between parent and child.
If the child is travelling with another relative then they are required to have a letter of authorization that is signed by the child’s parents to confirm that they give permission for them to travel. Any legal documents that apply to the child’s identity should be taken to show in evidence that they have parental or legal guardian permission to travel.
How long is an ESTA valid for?
When you apply for an adult or a child ESTA, it will be valid for two years or until the linked passport expires (whichever comes sooner). That does not mean that you can stay in the US for two years though, as an ESTA limits to a 90 day stay maximum. However, one of the great benefits of an ESTA is that you are able to make multiple trips to the US within that two year validity provided that you do not stay for longer than the 90 days limit.
If your passport, or your child’s passport expires then the associated ESTA also expires and you would need to apply for a completely new ESTA that will then be electronically linked to your new passport.
What if I need a US visa for my spouse and children?
If you are travelling to the US for longer than the 90 day limit, or your reason for visiting the US is not tourism or business then you would be required to complete a US visa related to the purpose of travel. There are many different types of US visa and some of them have related visas for a visa holder’s children and spouse.
How to apply for a family US visa
Firstly, the main visa holder will need to submit their visa application and attend an interview at the US Embassy. If the visa is an employment visa, they will be required to provide supporting documents that show their employment contract, purpose of job etc. If that visa is approved then it will be possible to apply for the related visa for dependents.
Applying for a group ESTA
To save time and process all of the family’s travel authorization at once, you can simply fill in the online form for groups travelling to the US. Any children under 18 visiting the US must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardian, so be aware of that if you are applying for a child’s ESTA.
The form itself should not take too long to complete, with information being asked such as the family name and the details of the applicant. You must complete a list of questions including personal details, passport information and also your travel plans. There is a section titled ‘Details about your health and character’ in which you are required to provide information regarding your health and some questions related to criminal convictions, as well as asking whether you have travelled to Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan since March 1 2011.