Stopover in the USA: Do I Still Need to Apply for ESTA?

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

In this article

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 order 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.
It is worth noting that whilst your ESTA can be approved in just a few minutes, it is always best to submit your application at least 72 hours before your travel date, or at the time of purchasing your flight tickets, even if it is just for a quick transit or even if you will be remaining in the aircraft for the entire layover.
If your application is refused, there are a couple of solutions to try and resolve this if you have left enough time. The first thing you can do is to wait for 10 days and apply to obtain ESTA authorisation again, in case there were any issues with the form when you first submitted it. There is an option on the ESTA application to indicate that your visit is just a transit, so when you fill out the application again you can select that option.
If your application for ESTA is still unsuccessful, then you will need to obtain a C-level visa, which is specifically for transit, in order to complete your journey. The most common of these is the C-1 visa, which is used for transits when travelling for personal reasons, and each travelling person, including children and infants, would require their own visa. With such a visa, an immigration officer at the port of entry can admit you for a period they decide, which can be no longer than 29 days.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.

Related FAQs


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.

Read More..

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.

Read More..

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.

Read More..