Frequently Asked Questions: Everything about ESTA

FAQ

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 application page for some more info on the process, and information on ESTA.

Can a third party fill out my ESTA application for me?>

Yes, a third party can fill out your ESTA form for you, as it is not compulsory for the person whose name appears on the form to complete the form themselves. It is acceptable for a third party such as a friend, parent, partner or travel agent to fill out all or part of the form on your behalf.
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Can children fly with ESTA?>

If a child is the citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program then they will require a valid ESTA to travel to the United States. This applies to children of all ages, including infants, in the exact same way that adults require an ESTA for permission to enter the US.
Children will also require their own passport, so they cannot travel under their parent’s passport, like there are able to when visiting some countries.
The child must have an unexpired biometric/electronic passport (one which must be machine readable and possess a digital photograph of the bearer integrated into the biographical data page).
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Can ESTA be extended?>

It is not possible to extend your ESTA but you are able to renew your ESTA. Your ESTA is valid for a maximum period of two years from issue, or until your passport expires if that is sooner. To renew your ESTA, you must submit a new application, in the same way that you submitted your previous one.
As the ESTA renewal process is usually very quick, it should not cause any delay to your travel plans. However, it is advised by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection to apply or reapply for your ESTA when you book your trip, or a minimum of 72 hours before you plan to travel.
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Can I fix a mistake on my ESTA application?>

Prior to payment, you can amend all the details in your application. Once you have paid and submitted your ESTA application, there are some mistakes that you can amend but the majority will require for you to submit a completely new application.
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Can I use my post-dated passport?>

If you are a UK citizen and have a post-dated passport that won’t be valid until a certain date (due to name change for example), you will not be able to apply for ESTA, as you need to apply using a passport that is valid at the time the application is submitted. Since a post-dated passport is only valid from the date of the detail change (i.e. marriage, divorce, gender change or civil partnership ceremony), you will not be able to use it to apply until that day.
You should check the validity of your passport before you apply for ESTA and well in advance of the day you travel to make sure that everything is in order. It is always recommended that you travel with a passport that is valid for at least six months from the date of your travel.
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Can I travel without an ESTA>

If you’re planning on visiting the US in the future, then you will need some form of travel authorisation if you are not a US citizen. The quickest and easiest way to get travel authorisation is through an ESTA, which is available for citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries to apply for. It is available for travellers that are entering the US for tourism, business, transit or medical purposes for a stay that is no longer than 90 days in total.
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Can I get an ESTA at the airport?>

A common issue that people with travel plans for going to the US encounter is that they are unaware of the need to obtain an ESTA or a visa as travel authorization to enter the US. Sometimes people forget that they require an ESTA, or think that their existing one is still valid. In many cases, this can mean that their booked flights get missed and they need to either reschedule or cancel their travel plans entirely.
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Can I extend my ESTA while in the U.S.?>

When you are travelling to the US on an ESTA and it is due to expire, the ESTA can be renewed, not extended. There is no option for an ESTA visa extension.
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Do I need a digital passport for ESTA?>

Yes, all applicants for ESTA must have unexpired, up-to-date, and valid digital passports. This also applies to children of all ages, including infants. The passport must remain valid for the entire duration of your stay in the United States. You cannot remain in the United States with an expired passport, or you will be in violation of the Visa Waiver Program.
In order for your passport to be valid with the Visa Waiver Program requirements, the passport must be digital
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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 your name has changed but you have not yet submitted your application, then you should make your changes and submit it. Although the form can be completed in minutes and the process of obtaining authorisation is usually quick, the U.S. authorities recommend completing the form at least 72 hours prior to your flight, or at the time of booking. Make sure all information is correct before submitting your application to ensure things run smoothly.
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Do I need any other documents apart from ESTA?>

Yes, you require your passport to travel to the US as well as your ESTA as the authorisation is centred around your passport number. This must be an electronic passport (ePassport) with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner and that also has a machine readable zone on the biographic page. You can identify if you have a chip by checking if there is a small logo of a rectangle and a circle on the front of your passport, similar to this:
A machine readable passport is one that contains two lines of text on the bottom of the information page of your passport. This text contains symbols and letters that can be scanned by machines for information. The passport must also contain a digital photograph, i.e. one that is printed directly onto the data page.
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Do I need ESTA to visit the USA?>

If you are a citizen of one of the VWP countries and you are travelling to the USA by air or sea using your VWP country passport, you must apply for ESTA, which has been mandatory since 2009. This includes if you are visiting the United States for business, pleasure, or in transit (in this latter case, write "In Transit" in lieu of your address on the application).
On the other hand, if you hold a VWP country passport and are coming to the USA by land, you do not have to apply for ESTA, however, you should return your green I-94W card upon departure. If you are arriving by land and departing by air, you should return your green I-94W card to the airline representative prior to boarding your flight.
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Do I need specific travel plans to apply for ESTA?>

You do not need specific travel plans when you are applying for an ESTA, you just need to fill in the address where you will be staying. If you’re travelling around the U.S. then you can just write the first place you’re staying at as a point of reference. If you haven’t made your plans just yet as your trip is a little short notice, you can list ‘unknown’ as your first point of address, and then that can be edited after 24 hours once you have had time to plan out your trip. The address of your stay is one of the few things you can edit after you’ve submitted your application for ESTA, so it is not a problem if you do not have those details when you submit your application. You don’t need to provide your entire itinerary if you are planning a road trip or if your trip isn’t fully planned out yet.
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Do I need to apply for ESTA if I have a stop-over in the United States?>

Yes, even if your final destination is not the United States and you’re stopping at an airport in the U.S. for just an hour or two, you will still need to get an ESTA authorisation.
You may not even be able to board your flight if you do not have a valid ESTA, as your airline will request this before your departure. This is to make sure that Border Security know exactly who is permitted to enter the U.S. at that particular period of time. There are no transit areas in the U.S. and you are in American territory from the moment you land, therefore must have an ESTA authorization for entering the country, regardless of how short your stop is.
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Do I need to apply for an ESTA application if my flight passes through U.S. airspace?>

No. As long as the plane you are on is not landing in any continental United States territory, you do not require any ESTA authorisation (or visa) as you won’t be passing through U.S. customs and immigration or setting foot on U.S. soil. This rule generally applies to flying through any nation’s airspace. The only time you would need an ESTA is if you were landing on U.S. soil, even if it’s just for a stop-over. You can have a look at this page for more information on stop-overs.
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Do I need to print and bring my ESTA to the airport?>

It is not compulsory to print and bring your ESTA but it is recommended as a precaution. When your ESTA form is processed and authorised , you can see this immediately by checking your form. The procedure is normally complete within minutes, but may occasionally take longer.
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How can I check my ESTA application if the application number doesn’t exist anymore?>

Once your ESTA permit has expired, you will not be able to check it and the number will no longer exist, therefore you will have to apply for a new ESTA authorisation. This means you will have to fill in the form once again and you will have to repay the fee.
If however, you have just forgotten your application number, that’s not a problem at all. You can retrieve your application by using some of the other information that you submitted on the form. When you are checking the status of an individual application and cannot remember your application number, visit the government website and click on "Check Individual Status",located at the bottom of the page under "Check Existing Application". Once you click that, select the "I do not know the Application Number" option and there you will just need to write your passport number, date of birth, family name, first name, and country of citizenship.
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How is ESTA checked?>

When you submit your ESTA application, the form and its information are stored on a secure database of the U.S. government, and the border authorities will have access to this information electronically.
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How long is my data stored?>

Your ESTA application data remains active for the amount of time that your approved ESTA is valid, or until your passport expires, whichever date comes first. The Department of Homeland Security then keeps this information for a further year, after which it is archived for 12 years. The information is archived for that period of time in order to allow national security or law enforcement to be able to access the data in case of any potential investigation. Archived information can only be accessed by a very limited number of officials.
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How secure is my data?>

The ESTA websiteoperates under the rules and regulations that are outlined in the United States Privacy Act insure the privacy of your information. In fact, the U.S. Code § 552a - "Records maintained on individuals" states the following regarding the conditions of disclosure:
"No agency shall disclose any record which is contained in a system of records by any means of communication to any person, or to another agency, except pursuant to a written request by, or with the prior written consent of, the individual to whom the record pertains."
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I forgot my Group Identification number. How can I log in to check my status?>

If you do not remember your group identification number, there are a couple of ways you can retrieve the number. One option is to get in touch with us to retrieve your group identification number here.
Alternatively, the identification number can be found in the email that is sent to you when you first apply for the group ESTA application. The email is sent out to the email address that was used to register the group with. So it is best to check your inbox to see if you still have the email. Bear in mind that it’s always a good idea to keep a record of details like this - either in your inbox, saved to your device/backup cloud, or as a printed out copy stored in a safe location.
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What is the difference between ESTA and the US visa?>

The US visa system has been in place as far back as 1924 for any non-citizen to visit the US. Since then, the system has developed to help control the criteria for immigration to the US and to protect the US workforce, as well as forming a part of the border security control framework.
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What happens if your ESTA expires while you are in the USA?>

If you are in the US and your ESTA expires then it is not an issue, as your ESTA must only be valid when you are entering the border of the US. This is when you will get checked by the border control authorities, so when you are returning to the UK or wherever else, there is no requirement to have a valid ESTA.
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How Long Does an ESTA Last?>

An ESTA allows citizens from countries within the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to visit the United States for business or tourism purposes without needing to obtain a visa. Currently there are 40 members of the Visa Waiver Program, with the Department of Homeland Security constantly reviewing the countries admitted into the VWP.
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How Long Does It Take for ESTA Approval?>

When somebody applies for an ESTA it is recommended that they give at least 72 hours prior to their intended travel time when applying. However, the processing time for an ESTA can vary considerably, with some taking just a few minutes to process, whilst others can take a few days.
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Is my ESTA still valid?>

You can check the status of your ESTA at any time. You can contact us at any time to check on its status. If it has been less than two years since you applied, and your passport is still valid, then your ESTA should be valid too.
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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?>

Your ESTA authorisation needs to be valid for when you enter the U.S. and will allow you to stay within U.S. territory for up to 90 days from when you land. Therefore, it is okay if your ESTA does not remain not valid throughout your stay in the United States as long as you do not overstay the limit of 90 days.
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Why was my ESTA application denied?>

There could be a number of reasons why your ESTA application was denied. Here are some of the more common reasons why your application might have been given a ‘Travel Not Authorised’ response...
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What are APC kiosks?>

Automated Passport Control (APC) is a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) program that makes the entry process for American, Canadian, and eligible Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travellers easier by providing an automated process through the CBP’s Primary Inspection area.
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What do the responses mean for my ESTA application?>

There are three responses that you can get once you retrieve your ESTA application, as listed below:
  • Authorisation Pending: This means that your application has been received, but it has not been decided whether to authorize or reject it yet. It can take up to 72 hours for a decision to be made on an application, so check back during or after the next three days to see if there has been an update on your ESTA approval.
  • Authorisation Approved: If you receive this response, this means that your application has now been fully processed and accepted. Once you receive this response you can go on your trip to the U.S. with full permission from U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Travel Not Authorised: If you receive this response, then this means that your application was reviewed and rejected. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not need to disclose their rationale for rejecting your application, but there are a number of reasons why an ESTA application could have been rejected, just click here to find out more.
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What does it mean if one of the group requests is "pending"?>

It could be the case that one of the applications in the group is still processing. You can check the individual applications by searching for the details individually. To do that you would need the passport numbers, dates of birth, full names and nationalities of all the people in your group. If you have all that information at hand, then you can check the status of the people in your group individually.
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What if my information has changed since applying for ESTA?>

You might be able to edit the information on your ESTA form depending on what the change is and also depending on whether you have submitted and paid for your application. Before payment, you can amend all of the details within the application, but after payment has been made and the application has been submitted, you can only edit non-biographical information, such as your:
  • email address
  • phone number
  • flight details
  • city of embarkation
  • address you’re going to be at in the United States (if you are going to different places in the U.S., just make sure you write the first address you will be staying at).
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What information does ESTA need?>

When applying for an ESTA, the information provided will help the department of Customs and Border Protection (CBP) cross check your information with no-fly and criminal databases. This is done in order to prevent individuals who might pose a threat to national security from entering the United States.
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What is ESTA?>

An ESTA stands for "Electronic System for Travel Authorization" and is a system introduced by the U.S. Government to improve travel security in relation to persons entering the U.S borders. An ESTA involves providing information that will be assessed to decide whether the applicant is eligible to travel to the USA without the requirement for a visa, under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
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What is the I-94 form?>

Form I-94, also known as the Arrival-Departure Record Card, is a form used by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in order to keep track of the arrival and departure to and from the United States or people who are not U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
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What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?>

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which allows citizens of specific countries (to see the full list of countries, click here) to travel to the U.S. under certain conditions without the need to obtain a visa.
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When must I submit a new ESTA application?>

You can submit a new ESTA application any time you like, even if you currently have an active ESTA authorisation. There are also some circumstances when you will have to submit a new one. Here are a couple of reasons why you would need to submit a new one:
  • If you have already submitted your application but have made a mistake in one or more details relating to your biographical information, such as if you’ve made an error on your name, date of birth, passport number, etc.
  • Answering one of the eligibility questions incorrectly will also require a new ESTA application, but if you chose "yes" on one of the eligibility questions in error, then it would be best to contact CBP directly either by calling them or sending them an email. Contact information is available at the bottom of the page on the ESTA website. This information is needed to determine your authorisation, so any changes mean you’ll need a whole new application. There are some details, however, that you can change when you check your ESTA status, such as your email address, telephone number and the address you are staying at in the U.S.
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When should I apply for ESTA?>

You can apply for ESTA any time you like but the U.S. government generally recommends people to apply for ESTA 72 hours before their trip. Even though an ESTA can take just minutes or even seconds to be approved, there are some applications that can take the full 72 hours to process. These tend to be applications where the information is unclear or contains mistakes, so make sure to be clear and accurate when filling out your application to avoid delays or paying for a second application.
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Which are the Visa Waiver countries for the USA?>

At present, to be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you must be a citizen of a country that has been designated by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as a “program country”. Note that if you are a permanent resident of a program country but are not a citizen, then you do not qualify for the visa waiver.
Currently there are 40 countries that meet the criteria of Section 217(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Title 8 U.S.C § 1187), which includes passport security, a non-immigrant visa refusal rate of 3% or less, and ongoing compliance with the immigration law of the U.S.
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Who can access the data on my ESTA application?>

Generally, your application and information are only accessed by government officials on a "need to know" basis. The information on your ESTA application is stored by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and they control the database with any information collected by applications.
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Why isn’t my ESTA valid for 2 years?>

If you have obtained your ESTA authorisation, but your passport is due to expire before the end of the 2-year validity period, then your ESTA will expire automatically with the expiration of your passport. So, once you get your new passport, you will need to apply for your new ESTA , and repay the fee. If you gave your email address when you applied for ESTA, you will receive a notice when your ESTA is going to expire, which will advise you to go to reapply.
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Will I be informed by email if my application is successful?>

No, you will not receive an email notification and you will need to check the status of your application online.
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Will strikes and delays affect my ESTA application?>

If airlines go on strike and your flight is cancelled, this shouldn’t affect your ESTA application. Once your ESTA is approved it remains valid for 2 years or until your passport expires, this depends on which one comes first. However, if your planned travel date is in the last days before your ESTA expires and your flight gets cancelled, you will need to apply for your ESTA again, if your current one will not cover your rescheduled flight. Even though this would be a matter beyond your control, you are required to apply for your ESTA again and pay the fee to submit a new ESTA application.
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Will I get an email when my ESTA is approved?>

When you apply for an ESTA, you are required to provide a valid email address because this is where your application correspondence will be sent to. Usually, you will receive an email within a few hours, or up to 72 hours after submitting your application. You are also able to check on the website for your application status, if you have the application reference number.
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How to apply for ESTA>

If you are travelling to the US and are from a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program then you will probably need to apply for an ESTA, unless you have an alternative form of visa to permit you to enter the US. Applying for an ESTA is a quick and reasonably easy process but if you have never done it before then you might need some guidance on the application process.
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How long does it take to obtain an ESTA?>

An ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation that enables visitors from countries within the Visa Waiver Program to enter the US. Before planning any trip to the US, travellers must obtain some form of visa to get permission to enter the US border. The ESTA is the form of visa that tourists or business travellers can obtain to allow a stay in the US of up to 90 days.
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How does ESTA differ from other USA visas?>

Any foreign nationals wishing to enter the US must first of all obtain some form of visa that provides the relevant permission required from the US border control authorities. Different types of visas are available for different types of reasons for travelling to the US.
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Can I speed up my ESTA application?>

The short answer to this question is no, you cannot fast track an ESTA application. However, by ensuring that your ESTA application is completed with all of the correct information, there is a much better chance that it will get processed quickly and approved. The processing of an ESTA application can take anything from a few minutes to several days to receive correspondence regarding the application to confirm whether it has been approved or declined.
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How Do You Fill Out an ESTA Application?>

Filling out an ESTA application is a fairly quick process but there are some questions and parts of required information that can complicate the application more if the applicant does not have the information, or is not sure which information to provide.
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How Long Does an ESTA Application Take?>

One of the key benefits of applying for an ESTA instead of applying for a US visa is that the processing time is much faster. The whole process is completed online, which means that the administration elements are much quicker. Generally, an ESTA application will take less than 72 hours to get processed but in many cases, it is much quicker than this, even taking a few minutes in some applications.
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What Information Is Required for ESTA Application?>

The ESTA application is a very short form that you can complete digitally and you must provide the information for a set of questions that will determine whether your application is approved or not. Generally, it will only take around 10 minutes to find all of the required information on the application but your application will be quicker if you have all of the required information to hand.
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