Got questions about ESTA? There are many questions which may come up if you’re thinking of apply for ESTA or when you’re filling out your application. We hope to answer some of these here. If you need some quick answers to general questions, you can also take a look at our infographic for some more info on the process, and information on ESTA.

Our infographic has all the information you need to know regarding the benefits and requirements of ESTA, in a conveniently-packaged document for you take anywhere.
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Can a third party fill out the ESTA form for me?

Yes, if you’re filling out the information for your child, or if somebody else such as a travel agency is helping you fill it out, then this is possible. You are still responsible for the data in your application being correct, however. The third party filling in the application will need to check an extra box in the Waiver of Rights section.

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Can children fly with ESTA?

Yes, children can travel using ESTA. However they need a valid passport of their own, and you will need to apply for them. Parents can apply on behalf of their children. If you are applying on behalf of your child, you will need to select the option on the Waiver of Rights section (Third Parties Only) while you are completing the application process. Children listed only on your passport cannot travel under ESTA - they require their own valid passport.

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Do I need a digital passport to apply for ESTA?

No - you need an up-to-date digital passport that can be scanned by a computer, and which contains biometric data in the chip. You cannot apply for ESTA with a passport not accepted for the scheme - it must be scannable by a computer and have the chip with your biometric information in it to be valid. If you are unsure if your passport has one, the passport should have a small rectangle and circle logo on the front to indicate that it has a chip.

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Do I need ESTA to visit the USA?

Yes, entry to the USA requires that you have valid permission to enter, such as with ESTA or a traditional visa.

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Can ESTA be extended?

No, ESTA can’t be extended beyond its original 2 years, but it can be applied for once again when it has expired. As it can be approved in minutes, a delay shouldn’t affect you.

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Can I fix a mistake on my ESTA application?

If you haven’t submitted your application yet, you can change any information that you have put in the form. However if you have already paid for and submitted an application, you will need to submit a new one. Information can’t be changed on the ESTA application after it has been submitted and approved.

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Can I use my post-dated passport?

If you are a British citizen and you have applied for a post-dated passport, you cannot use it to apply for ESTA until the date of your marriage, when the passport will become valid. Only currently-valid passports may be used during the application. As post-dated passports won’t be valid until you’ve married, you can’t use it until that point. If you’re not sure of the validity of your passport for the USA, make sure that it’s validity date is from before you fly, and doesn’t expire within 6 months of going to the U.S.

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Do I need any other documents apart from ESTA?

Yes, to enter the U.S you will need your passport and you will also need to fill out any paperwork when you land in the United States. This includes customs declarations, however this can also be filled out at an APC Kiosk when you land. You will also need to provide border agents with information on your U.S. point of contact and where you will be staying in the U.S., along with the reasons for your journey (whether for a holiday or for business).

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Do I need specific travel plans to apply for ESTA?

No, you will only need to fill in your first address in the U.S. where you will be staying, and the details of a person to act as your point of contact. If you’re travelling throughout the U.S., you only need to fill in the first address or location where you will be staying.

What you will need when you enter the U.S is a return ticket or ongoing travel tricket to show that you will not be attempting to try and stay in the United States past your 90-day limit. You will need to show this to the border agent when you arrive.

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Do I need to print and bring my ESTA to the airport?

It’s not necessary to bring it with you, but it is recommended that you print a copy for your own records. You can also bring a printed copy with you if you wish. However the ESTA form does not guarantee entry, as the final decision rests in the hands of the U.S. authorities who will be at border processing when you arrive from your flight. In short, having a printed copy won’t guarantee your entry, but it never hurts to have it on hand.

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Do I need to apply for ESTA if I have a stop-over in the United States?

Yes - if you’re stopping for any length of time you need to apply for ESTA, as there are no transit areas. Everybody is counted as entering the U.S. This is only applicable if you have to transfer between flights or if your plane lands in the United States during your transfer. You can select the option on your ESTA application to indicate that you will not be staying in the United States and that you are transferring through it instead.

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Do I need to apply for an ESTA application if my flight passes through US airspace?

If the place is not landing within the U.S., then ESTA is not required. As you will not be passing through US customs and immigration or stepping foot on American soil, it is not needed. ESTA is only required if you will be making a transfer through a U.S. airport or seaport on your journey.

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Do I need a new ESTA application if my name has changed due to marriage, divorce, or another legal proceeding?

If you have an already-approved ESTA application but your name changes, you will need to re-apply for a new ESTA authorization. If your passport is under your old name but your name has changed and you wish to apply for a new ESTA authorization, then you can apply for ESTA using your old passport number and new name.

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My ESTA application expires during my trip. Does it have to be valid the whole time I’m in the U.S?

On the official website, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection agency says:

“If your ESTA expires while in the U.S. it will not affect your departure.”

As the ESTA application is related to the duration of your trip and your actual entry to the United States, if the application expires while you are still on your trip then your departure will not be affected. It only needs to be valid on the day of your arrival. If you wish to return after this however, then you will need to apply for a new ESTA permit. Your passport will still need to be valid, however.

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How can I check my ESTA application if the application number doesn’t exist anymore?

If your ESTA permit has expired, you will not be able to check it and you will need to apply for a new one. However if you are checking your current application but you forgot the number, you can check on this application using the other details that you put into your application, such as your name, passport number, and date of birth.

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How can I check my ESTA is still valid?

You can check your ESTA application by looking on the official site, and putting in your application number. This number will then allow you to review your application again.

If you forgot your application number, you can type in your other details related to your application such as your applicant’s name, date of birth, passport number, and passport issuing country. This will then let you access your application to review it.

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How is ESTA checked?

Your ESTA application is stored on the database for the U.S. government. When you enter the country, or board transport to enter the United States, the border authorities can check your information on this database without you needing to verify it yourself.

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How long is my data stored?

Your ESTA application data remains active for the duration that your ESTA is valid. The Department of Homeland Security will then keep it maintained for one year more, at which point it is then archived for 12 years for the law enforcement and national security departments. The number of officials with access to this archived information is limited. If ESTA is used in place of the I-94W form, the information will be held in accordance with this form, on the retention schedule of 75 years.

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How secure is my data?

Your data is kept on computers run by the U.S. Government, and uses technology designed to prevent unauthorised entry, so your data is very safe. Your data is accessible in the case of an investigation by law enforcement authorities, however.

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I forgot my Group Identification number. How can I log in to check my status?

You can recover the Group Identification Number through the email address which you specified during registration. After six unsuccessful attempts to access the group, it will be locked. You will need to access a form on the website to recover it.

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Is my ESTA still valid?

You can check on your ESTA status by accessing the official ESTA site, and clicking on “Check Existing Application”. You will need to input your application number and you will be able to see the status of your application, and if your permit is still valid.

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My ESTA application was denied.

If your ESTA application was denied, but your circumstances haven’t changed since your previous application in such a way that you would be approved, then your new application will also be denied. The next course of action after your ESTA application has been denied is to apply for a Visa with your embassy.

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What does it mean if one of the group requests is “Pending”?

If one of the applications is still processing, you will need to check on the application within 72 hours, as it is still processing. The final status will be updated within 72 hours. It will not affect the other applications in the group.

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What do the responses mean for my ESTA application?

You can have one of three responses on your ESTA application.

  • Authorisation Approved: If you receive this response, your application has been accepted and you can leave for your trip.
  • Travel Not Authorised: In this case, your ESTA application has been rejected. In order to travel to the U.S., a conventional visa is required.
  • Authorisation Pending: This response means that your case has not yet been decided. You should revisit the site within the next 72 hours to check on your progress.
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What if my information has changed since applying for ESTA?

If you have received a new passport since applying for ESTA, or there was a change in the information on your passport, you will need to submit a new application with the new information and pay the fee again. The information on an already-approved application can’t be changed.

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What information does ESTA need?

The ESTA form will require you to submit a copy of your passport (with digital photo and chip), and and passport information into the form. You will need to include information about any other citizenship or nationality you may hold, and you will be asked if you’re a member of the CBP Global Entry Program. You will also be asked for your U.S. Point of Contact information - that’s the information for who you will be staying with and where, along with emergency contact information. You will also answer questions related to your eligibility to enter the United States, such as if you have been denied entry previously or if you will be a safe traveller.

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What is the I-94 Form?

The I-94 form isn’t required when travelling by air or overwater if you have filled out ESTA. If you travel into the US via land, such as through Canada or Mexico, you will have to fill in an I-94 form. This is the alternative form that will allow you entry to the United States over land, or if you entered by sea or air without first having gotten ESTA approval.

You will need an I-94 form if you are not a U.S. citizen, an expatriate residing in the U.S, or an expatriate with an immigrant visa to the U.S. Most Canadian citizens visiting or in transit also do not need it. If your ESTA application was accepted then you will not need to fill out an I-94.

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What is the difference between a visa and ESTA?

Visa and ESTA are two different ways for somebody to apply to come into the United States. ESTA is part of the Visa Waiver Program, and so it has different restrictions and requirements from the normal Visa. If you travel into the United States using ESTA, you can stay for a maximum of 90 days at a time, and the validity of ESTA is for 2 years or until your passport expires - whichever comes first. The status of your visit cannot be changed when entering using ESTA, and it must remain as a tourism or business trip.

The Visa has a validity period of 10 years, and allows stays of up to 6 months at a time. The Visa can also allow you to change your status in the country, such as if you were applying to work, or live in the United States.

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What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

The Visa Waiver program allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States. They are able to do this for business, or for pleasure such as a holiday. They can stay for up to 90 days at a time without needing to obtain a visa, and the ESTA remains valid for 2 years or until the ESTA holder’s passport expires.

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What are APC kiosks?

APC Kiosks are computers where you can scan your passport and answer questions related to entering the U.S. They speed up your border control process. You will fill out information such as customs information, point of contact, etc. You will then receive a receipt that you can take to the border control agent, who will approve it and you can finish your process of entering the U.S.

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What is ESTA?

ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is a way to apply online for permission to enter the United States through an automated system. ESTA is not a visa and so does not meet the requirements to serve instead of a visa in the U.S. - thus you can’t apply to work and live in the U.S under ESTA, but you can stay for a maximum of 90 days at a time over a period of 2 years.

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When must I submit a new ESTA application?

You will need to apply for a new ESTA authorisation in these situations: if the ESTA holder receives a new passport, if the ESTA holder changes his or her name or gender, if the nationality of the ESTA holder changes, or if there is a change in circumstances which leads you to change your answer on one of the eligibility questions.

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When should I apply for ESTA?

Although ESTA can be approved within seconds, it is advised that you should apply for it well before your trip. If your application is denied, you will need to go through the route of applying for a visa with your embassy, which will take longer than the ESTA application. The Department of Homeland Security recommends applying for ESTA as soon as you know when you will be travelling to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The maximum amount of time for ESTA to be approved is 72 hours, and it is recommended that you apply with at least this amount of time to spare.

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Which are the Visa Waiver countries for the U.S.A?

There are 38 countries which are part of the Visa Waiver program. These are:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Belgum
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Republic of Malta
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Any of these countries may apply for ESTA travel authorization. There may be regional aspects to take into account however, so make sure to look into these.

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Why isn’t my ESTA valid for 2 years?

If you applied for ESTA but your passport was going to expire before the 2 years of the application, your ESTA permit will only be valid for the same time your passport is valid.

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Who has access to the data on my ESTA application?

The Department of Homeland Security controls the database with any information collected from ESTA. It can be shared with the Department of State when determining whether a visa should be issued to an applicant, or with authorities when during legal investigations. It will not be shared with carriers (such as airlines), and they will only receive information regarding your approval or denial, so that they know if you can board.

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Will I be informed by email if my application is successful?

No, you will need to check your application status on the official website as an email is not sent out. You can do this by clicking on “Check Existing Application” on the main page of the official ESTA site.

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Will strikes and delays affect my ESTA application?

No. Even if you have to rebook your flight, your ESTA application will be valid for 2 years from date of approval, or until your passport expires, if this happens first.

Travel Tips

Once you have your flights booked, your trip sorted, and you’ve gotten your approved application from ESTA, you are ready to travel. However you should always keep a few things in mind before making your trip to the United States.

Electronic devices

Although travellers are able to take their electronic devices with them onto flights, you will need to scan them separately in security in much the same way as when travelling to many other countries. If you are flying in or out of the United States, you may need to show to security that your devices are charged by powering them on. Devices with no charge in them will be confiscated by the security agents, so make sure to keep them fully charged before you leave for the airport and go through security.

At the airport

Getting to your flight

The most important thing to have with you is a good collection of your documents. It’s advised to keep copies of your documents, to take the originals with you and have at least one set of copies to leave with a trusted friend or relative. Make sure to keep all of your relevant documentation that you will need to present to officials in your carry-on luggage, and don’t pack it into your checked in luggage.

When you’re heading to the U.S, or flying out, you will need to go through security before you can go to the gate and board your flight. If your boarding pass has been marked with SSSS, short for Secondary Security Screening Selection, then you will need to go through additional security checks when boarding. During this check, security checks are more intense and so you may be patted down, have your bags swabbed and searched, and have additional scans performed. If your pass is marked with this, you will also not be able to print your boarding passes at home and will be redirected to a ticket desk when you go to the airport. People who have gone through this extra screening claim that it doesn’t take longer than 10-20 minutes, however, so just make sure to leave extra time for your journey when going to the airport.

Make sure to become familiar with what items are and aren’t allowed when flying into the U.S. You must declare agricultural products, as many aren’t allowed into the country. Most items with meat in them are not allowed, but you will be able to bring in small meals (for example, a homemade meal to eat on your journey). Any medication you bring should only be the amount that a person would use for the duration of their stay, especially if it could potentially contain addictive drugs or narcotics, such as cough medicine, sleeping pills, or similar.

Arriving at your destination

After you’ve flown, and arrived to your destination in the United States, you’ll need to pass through passport control in the U.S. You can carry out these checks in some airports by way of APC kiosks. These kiosks are ideal for streamlining your Customs and Border Check process, as you can input answers to the CBP inspection questions, your biographic information, and your flight information on the kiosks. You can also input your customs declarations on the kiosk. They will also scan your passport for you, and you only need to take the final receipt and your passport from the kiosk to a CBP Officer, who will then finalise your inspection for entry.

These kiosks are available in many different airports in the U.S., but a full list can be found on the Customs and Border Check website. The APC kiosks are eligible for use by travellers who have entered the country using ESTA, so the process of passing through border security will become much easier, and faster.

Keep up to date with the latest travel advice and guidelines.

It is important that prior to departure you keep up to date with the latest safety updates, and travel guidelines. You can check these with your local embassy, usually on their website. You can check travel guidelines to the U.S on the official TSA website, where new rules and regulations will be posted.

You will need to keep up to date with these as the date of your flight approaches, and not just check them when you make your ESTA application. It could be that there are new regulations regarding luggage, arrival at the airport, or paperwork.