ESTA authorisation is an electronic residence permit allowing certain citizens of member countries, including the United Kingdom and other countries of the European Union, to travel to the United States. On our website, we'll explain how to apply for ESTA online quickly and obtain this authorisation, which replaces the visa for the USA, simply and easily. All you need to do is fill in an online application form and meet certain requirements, which we will also explain in detail.
ESTA USA application: Key points
- ESTA authorisation is a form of visa exemption for tourist visits to the USA.
- The ESTA application procedure is 100% online, using a simple form
- You can travel to the USA for 90 consecutive days with ESTA authorisation
- The ESTA USA authorisation is valid for two years from the date it is obtained.
What is an ESTA USA and what does it consist of?
The ESTA authorisation is a procedure that was set up a few years ago by the US Homeland Security with the aim of offering a simpler and faster alternative to a visa. It is therefore intended for nationals of certain countries who wish to enter the United States for a short stay. The ESTA is therefore a visa waiver that grants the traveller legal permission to stay in the USA.
Currently, 37 countries are members of this scheme, including the UK and most EU countries. If you are a permanent resident in one of these countries, you can do without a visa to travel to the USA and apply for an ESTA online in just a few minutes.
The ESTA application procedure has been simplified as much as possible. The only supporting document you will be asked for is your passport number. The entire procedure is carried out online, from filling in the ESTA form to paying the transfer and processing fees.
Whereas in the past it was necessary to apply for a tourist visa for the USA by going to the American embassy or consulate in your place of residence, ESTA makes travel to the USA much easier and quicker to organise.
It should also be remembered that ESTA is also a new version of the VWP or Visa Waiver Program, which was previously created in the late 1980s by the US government with the aim of increasing tourist visits to the country by nationals of countries that are friendly or of high value to the US economy. The ESTA system is also subject to the principle of reciprocity, which means that US citizens can also easily obtain a travel authorisation for member countries. This is also the reason why most of the countries accessible to ESTA are those of the European Union.
What are the eligibility requirements for ESTA?
As you will see when you start your online ESTA application procedure, the eligibility requirements for this visa waiver are few and fairly simple to meet. In most cases, you will have no difficulty obtaining your ESTA online in just a few minutes. Here is a list of the conditions you need to meet to benefit from this scheme:
- You must have a valid biometric or electronic passport in your name
- The total duration of your stay in the United States may not exceed 90 consecutive days
- The purpose of your trip must be tourism, a business trip or a visit to a relative
- You must not engage in any paid activity in the United States during your stay
- You must be a national of one of the ESTA member countries
Remember that once obtained, the ESTA will be valid for two years or until the expiry date of your passport. It is therefore possible to use this ESTA to make several trips to the USA.
What is the purpose of ESTA and how does it replace the traditional visa?
The ESTA system was created to streamline the processing of visa applications and to filter the flow of travellers through American airports by simplifying controls. This visa waiver programme is therefore intended to strengthen security measures in the fight against terrorism, following the attacks of 11 September. The US government can, through the simplification of control procedures, strengthen preventive measures against security risks.
With the introduction of the ESTA, the United States is able to make an initial selection of travellers who wish to enter the country. On the basis of the information provided by the traveller in the online form, security and immigration officials can decide whether or not to grant this authorisation. This allows them to both limit the risks and simplify the work of immigration officers at the borders.
But beware! ESTA is not a substitute for a visa, nor is it a visa at all. It is in fact an alternative for certain travellers and certain types of travel. The ESTA should not be confused with a visa for the USA, as they are two different documents. This is why the ESTA is also called a "visa waiver". This means that you can travel to the USA without a visa.
The classic visa for the USA still exists and, if you do not meet the eligibility requirements listed above, you can still apply for a USA visa to travel to the USA. The same applies to travellers who meet these requirements but wish to stay in the USA for more than 90 days, to work or study.
How to obtain an ESTA for the United States and what procedure to follow?
To obtain an ESTA travel authorisation for the United States quickly, you must first ensure that you meet the necessary conditions and that you are therefore eligible. Remember that you must be a national of one of the member countries of this scheme and that dual nationality with one of the nationalities on the US government's blacklist will not allow you to obtain this travel authorisation. You should also check that the purpose of your trip is accepted by the scheme and that you do not intend to stay in the country for more than 90 days.
Once you are sure of these details, you can start the application process. To do this, go to a site with an official English form, such as the official site or the site we recommend here. Don't forget to bring your passport with you.
While this procedure is very quick and will only take a few minutes, it should be done with care and interest. Be careful not to make any mistakes or typing errors when filling in the answers to the questions asked. In particular, the first and last names on the form must match those on your passport.
The same applies to the series of closed questions you will be asked afterwards. A single wrong answer to one of these questions will systematically lead to a refusal of your ESTA application. You must, of course, answer with the utmost sincerity.
Finally, once you have filled in and reviewed the form, you must proceed to the online payment of your ESTA application. The easiest way to pay the cost of the ESTA application online is by credit card, so that your application can be processed more quickly.
When ESTA applications are filled in correctly, the reply is sent by email to the applicant within a few hours and at the latest within 72 hours. Be sure to check your email inbox, and in particular your spam or junk mail folder, if you have not received anything beyond this time.
You will also not need to print your ESTA once it has been obtained as it will be electronically attached to your passport for two years.
How long is an ESTA valid for?
As we have just seen, the procedure for obtaining ESTA authorisation is very quick and simple. However, it is strongly recommended that you do not wait until the last moment to apply. Make sure you take care of this process a few weeks before your departure. This will allow you to apply for a regular visa if your ESTA is refused.
But once obtained, this ESTA authorisation will be valid for two years, unless your passport expires before the end of this validity date. In this case, the ESTA will expire when your passport expires. Therefore, if you need to renew your passport during this period, you will also need to reapply for a full ESTA.
The two-year validity period means that you can use your ESTA authorisation to make several trips to the USA during this period.
It should also be noted that certain factors may reduce the validity period. In addition to the validity of the passport used to make the application, it is essential that the information given on the form is complete, correct and reliable. If any of these details have changed, your ESTA may no longer be considered valid. In this case too, you will have to start the procedure from the beginning and apply for a new ESTA.
It is also important to understand that the validity of the ESTA does not correspond to the length of stay authorised by it. In fact, in all cases and whatever the number of stays you make in the USA during this two-year period, each of these stays cannot exceed 90 consecutive days. Failure to comply with this simple rule may result in a ban on your stay in the USA and, of course, cancellation of your ESTA.
However, the validity of your ESTA will not be affected or reduced if you move within the same country, if you change your point of contact in the United States, if you change the date of travel or the place of residence of your stay in the United States, or if you wish to leave the United States earlier than planned.
Is ESTA authorisation systematically granted and what to do if it is refused?
Just because you meet the ESTA eligibility requirements does not mean that you are guaranteed to get it. Although the majority of applications result in a positive response, which will be received within 72 hours, it is possible that one of the answers to the questionnaire will result in a refusal by the immigration authorities.
However, if your application has been properly completed and you do not pose a security risk to the United States, you are unlikely to be refused.
You may also receive an email saying that your authorisation is pending. This means that your application is under review and that you will receive a final answer soon.
If you receive a rejection notification by email, you have several options:
- If you think you have simply made a mistake when filling in the ESTA application form online, you will be able to reapply by checking your answers carefully. In this case, however, you will have to wait 10 days after the refusal before you can reapply.
- If your ESTA has been refused due to incompatibility with the system, you may also apply for a visa, but this will require a trip to the US embassy. Depending on your situation, several types of visa are available to you.
In order to maximise your chances of obtaining your ESTA for the United States, we recommend that you take the time to check each answer on the application form. On our website, we will provide you with all the information you need to obtain this authorization quickly.