Do you need to print your ESTA?

Are you wondering if a paper copy of your ESTA authorisation is necessary and therefore if you should print this document you can read a detailed response here as well as information on how to receive this authorisation by post.

Apply for an ESTA online
Do you need to print ESTA?

The ESTA is an electronic travel authorisation that is supplied to you directly online using a system that is modern and rapid and avoids the long delays associated with the processing of traditional visa applications for visiting the USA.  But many people that benefit from this paper free authorisation ask if they need to print this document for inspection by the authorities during their visit to the United States.  We will therefore respond here in detail to this important question and offer you some advice relating to the use and safekeeping of your travel authorisation under the best conditions.

Do I need to print my ESTA: Key points

  • It is not required to print your ESTA authorisation for travel to the USA
  • ESTA authorisation is electronically attached to your passport
  • However, it is recommended that you keep a copy of your ESTA authorisation during your stay.


Do I need to print out my ESTA to travel to the United States?

The ESTA procedure is entirely electronic, with applications made online and replies sent by email. This also means that your ESTA authorisation is recorded digitally and that the American government and Homeland Security agents have easy access to it. 

The ESTA certificate is electronically linked to your passport number. This means that all you have to do is present your passport when you board your plane and when you cross the border into the United States for your ESTA to be checked.

Border security officials use software to scan your passport and access your ESTA status.

In conclusion, you are under no obligation to download or print your ESTA certificate before your trip. However, it is advisable to carry the authorisation number that appears on the document sent to you by email.

Apply for an ESTA online

Why is it worth downloading and printing your ESTA?

As we have just seen, it is absolutely not required to print or even download your ESTA certificate. It is only sent to you for information purposes, to confirm that you can travel to the United States.

However, some travellers prefer to be cautious and print out their ESTA certificate before travelling to the United States. Checking your status at the border may take some time, or a computer problem may delay your boarding.

With a printed ESTA, you can present this document in paper form to simplify the agent's work by indicating the information to be checked. What's more, although this is relatively rare, some means of transport to the United States do not have the software needed to check that an ESTA has been attached to the passport.

To avoid being rejected for boarding due to a lack of electronic means, it is therefore advisable to carry a copy of your ESTA certificate with you. This will avoid unnecessary complications that could jeopardise the smooth running of your trip.

There is one final advantage to printing out your ESTA before your trip. Keeping a paper copy of this document will enable you to keep track of the validity of your authorisation. Remember that an ESTA authorisation is valid for two years from the date of issue, so you can take as many trips as you like during this period. The date of issue is shown on your ESTA, so you will also know when it expires.

We also recommend that you carry a copy of your ESTA in your wallet during your trip so that you can present it in the event of a police check, as this document certifies your right to stay in the United States.


Where can I download and print my ESTA?

There are several ways of obtaining a paper version of your ESTA authorisation. Firstly, some websites offer to send you a paper copy of this certificate by post, in addition to the confirmation email that you will always receive.

Otherwise, you can find your ESTA document in your online space on the site where you made the request, where you can download and print it. Don't hesitate to print several copies.

Also remember that when you apply for an ESTA online, you will need to enter a valid email address. This address will be used to send you your ESTA certificate. You will also be able to download your ESTA certificate from the email you receive from the US authorities. 

In all cases, even if you choose not to print out your ESTA, which is not required, remember to make a note of your file reference. It could be useful in certain situations.


How do I find, download or print my ESTA again?

Most of the time, it is fairly easy to find your ESTA certificate so that you can download and print it again. This is particularly the case if you have kept the email you received when you applied. Feel free to search your email inbox.

If you can't find your ESTA confirmation email, don't panic! There is another easy way to find your ESTA via the official US government website. Here are the steps to follow:

  • First, go to the official ESTA website
  • Display the site by clicking on the symbol at the top right of the screen
  • Then click on "Check existing application".
  • Click on "Check individual status".
  • You will then see a security notification
  • Click on "Confirm and continue" to access the next page
  • On this page, you can retrieve an existing application by clicking on the button to access your file.
  • If you have kept the reference number of your ESTA file, you must complete the first part by indicating the application number as well as your passport number and date of birth.
  • If you have forgotten or lost your file number, fill in the second section with your passport number, date of birth, surname, first name and nationality.
  • Then click on the "Retrieve application" button. You will then see your ESTA appear on the screen with its expiry date, which corresponds to the deadline for entering the United States.
  • From this page, you can also download the document and print it out again.

Remember, however, that it is absolutely not required to carry a paper ESTA authorisation with you on your trip. The only conditions to be met are that your certificate is still valid and that the trip you are planning complies with the ESTA system rules.

Apply for an ESTA online

As a web writer and globetrotter with a passion for travel and tourism, I have acquired in-depth knowledge of the procedures that are essential for travellers. I help travellers to complete all the formalities required for a successful trip, particularly when it comes to obtaining a visa online. With several years' experience in this field, I'd like to offer you some valuable advice to help you discover the world with complete peace of mind.


Frequently asked questions

Do I need to present a paper version of the ESTA when travelling to the USA?

No! It is absolutely not necessary to present a paper document representing your ESTA when you travel to the USA. The ESTA electronic travel authorisation is automatically attached to your passport and this passport is therefore the only document you will need to present when boarding the plane and when you arrive in the USA.

Can a printed ESTA be submitted after a change of passport?

If the passport you used when you first applied for an ESTA has expired and had to be renewed, you will no longer be able to use your authorisation for a stay in the United States, even if you present the paper version of your certificate. It is essential that the passport number on your ESTA is the same as the one you will present during your stay. It will therefore be necessary to reapply for an ESTA online by starting the procedure from the beginning.

Can an ESTA be kept in digital format?

It is not compulsory to print the ESTA certificate, nor is it compulsory to keep a digital version of this document. However, we strongly recommend that you take this precaution. Indeed, by keeping the email received from the American authorities or at least your file number, you will be able to access the information on your authorisation at any time, including its period of validity.