A visit to the United States can of course be completed alone, with friends or with your family. Therefore, when you plan to travel to this destination with your family you, and all the family members that accompany you, will be required to obtain the necessary travel authorisations. In this article we explain what is actually necessary, and in particular how to apply for a group ESTA authorisation for the whole family so you can complete your travel preparations successfully.
ESTA group application: Key points
- It is possible to make an ESTA group application to travel to the USA as a group or as a family.
- A special form allows you to register several travellers if you have their personal details.
- There are no group rates for ESTA applications
- If you are applying for an ESTA for your family, the children's application must be made by a parent or legal guardian.
Is it necessary to obtain an ESTA authorisation for children?
Before examining group ESTA applications for a family let us take a few moments to respond to a question often asked by travellers. Is a valid travel authorisation actually required for children to travel to the USA?
In fact, everyone that wishes to enter American territory should of course possess a legal travel authorisation to do so. It is also obligatory for children to have this authorisation. This could be an ESTA authorisation for touristic visits of less than 90 days if the children are residents of a country that is one of the scheme’s member countries, or if not then a classic visa. This may seem surprising but even babies and infants should also hold a travel authorisation to visit the United States.
This of course means that all children, even babies, should also hold a passport in their name that is valid for the entire duration of their visit to the USA. Of course, it is not the children and infants who will complete their online ESTA applications but this procedure should be followed by the parent or guardian responsible for them from a legal point of view.
We should also draw your attention here to the particular case of a child travelling to the United States with only one of its parents. In this case, it is necessary, apart from a passport and an ESTA authorisation or visa, to also hold an authorisation to leave their home country signed by the parent that is not travelling with them, together with a copy of this absent parent’s passport or another proof of identity. This is necessary to avoid problems related to kidnapping by one of the parents in the case of a separation that is problematic. It is therefore important to prepare these documents to ensure the avoidance of problems or delays during your travel. This is also the case for grandparents or other members of the family that plan to travel to the USA with the child or children but without the parents. In this case an authorisation signed by both parents is required.
The group ESTA applications for a family that wishes to travel to the United States:
Let us now pass onto the subject that mainly concerns this article, the group ESTA applications for families wishing to travel to the USA together. For those families that wish to travel to the USA for tourism or to visit someone close to them for a period of less than 90 days then they can benefit from the Visa Waiver Programme and apply for an online ESTA authorisation for all the family members that wish to go. In fact, the better websites for completing ESTA applications online such as the one we recommend to our visitors offer specific application forms for completing ESTA group applications which saves time with travel preparation.
This type of group application form does in fact enable a single adult to complete all the travel authorisation applications for the whole family. Of course this person will need to possess all the necessary information to complete this procedure. In particular, they will need to know the personal identification details for each visitor (full name, date of birth and address) as well as the passport number.
Completing a group ESTA application for travelling as a family does of course offer certain advantages. Firstly, this makes the entire procedure simpler as it can be quite long if you have to complete an individual application for each visitor. It is also reassuring for parents that wish to ensure that their children can visit the USA with them. It should be noted here however that a minor cannot complete an ESTA application alone.
What are the advantages of an ESTA group application for a family?
Organising a family trip generally requires a lot of time to organise and a highly practical and organised approach to ensure that nothing is forgotten and any unforeseen mishaps are avoided as much as possible. For this reason, a group ESTA application to travel to the United States as a family is an idea that is extremely logical and offers certain advantages such as the following:
- Firstly, a single person is responsible for the applications. This ensures that no-one forgets or delays in applying for their ESTA which could result in family members being blocked at the airport and unable to board.
- The group application enables all members to receive their ESTA authorisation at the same time. The validity period of these travel authorisations is therefore the same for them all and the whole family can enjoy further future visits together.
- The group application for a family also represents a major saving in time even though a form needs to be completed in full for each traveller. As they are all completed on the same website this saves browsing time and enables one single person to be the primary contact and group representative in case of problems or difficulties regarding the completion of the forms.
- Finally, this enables the allotment of travel organisational tasks by confiding this administrative procedure to a single person. In this way, the other travellers can concentrate on other things such as organising the baggage, airport travel, or planning visits and activities for when they reach their destination.
Finally, ESTA group applications are practical and ideal solutions for families that wish to travel together to the United States. Do not forget however to check the validity of the passports for each group member and apply plenty of time beforehand to ensure that everyone obtains their travel authorisation before the departure date.
Are the ESTA acceptances or refusals also grouped together or are they individual?
Given that you only have to complete a single group application for all the members of your family to visit the United States you may wonder if the response, positive or negative, is valid for the entire family or if it is individual for each applicant.
Firstly it is important to remember that this response to your application is sent to you by email within a 72 hour period following the submission of your form. The response is sent only to the person responsible for the applications who has indicated their personal email address on the ESTA application form.
Of course, as is totally logical, the answers to the ESTA group applications will however be individual so it is therefore possible that one or more applicants receive a refusal even though others in the group receive a positive response to their ESTA application.
In this case, it is of course possible for the visitor that has received a refusal to complete a new application after a legal and obligatory delay of 10 days following the refusal or to complete a visa application depending on the reason for the ESTA refusal.
What to do if a mistake is made during the completion of an ESTA group application for the family?
Given that a group ESTA application is completed by a single person on behalf of the entire family, it is possible that this person may make mistakes relating to other people’s details when completing the form. In this case it is important to know that certain information can be modified after the submission of the form but other information requires a completely new application to be completed. Among the information that can be modified we particularly note the name of the airline used as well as the destination address.
To access your group file as for an individual file you will need certain information such as the reference number of your group, the full name of the person that completed the application, their date of birth and email address. Of course, the person who completed the application is not the only person who can access the file; each visitor may access their file without needing to call on this person.
Is it possible to benefit from a group rate for an ESTA group application?
Another frequent question from families that wish to complete a group ESTA application relates to the cost of this procedure. If you are used to preferential prices for large families then it is important that you know that unfortunately this is not the case with ESTA applications. Each ESTA application must be paid for at the normal rate so this fee must be multiplied by the number of applicants accompanying you when you complete a group application.
This is the same for children, even infants, who also cannot benefit from a reduced fee.
The online ESTA applications can be paid directly through the website where you complete your application. Of course we strongly recommend you use a reputable ESTA service provider such as the one we recommend here which will enable you to complete this transaction with a credit or debit card using a secure server.
Payment online is however the only means of payment acceptable for this type of procedure as this system is 100% online. It is also necessary that payment is completed for the application to be transmitted to the American authorities and for your request to be processed as rapidly as possible.
Is it possible for one of the family members to reuse their ESTA later without the rest of the family?
You no doubt already know that once you have obtained an ESTA travel authorisation it is valid for a period of two years and can therefore be used for numerous visits to the USA. But in the case of group applications some people ask if each applicant can individually reuse their authorisation for travelling alone at a later date.
In fact, even though the application was completed as part of a group, the use of an ESTA authorisation is entirely individual. This means that each visitor that has obtained an ESTA, can use it to visit the USA or for transits and stopovers through the United States alone and not as part of the group. Each visitor holds an individual passport and it is to this passport that the ESTA is digitally or electronically linked. Therefore, each family member can travel alone or with other people as long as they hold a valid ESTA. It is even possible, if so wished, for the visitor to travel on future visits with other people other than those included on the initial group application, as long as they of course also hold ESTA travel authorisations.
We would like to draw your attention here though to the particular case for children. Even though minors hold their own ESTA travel authorisation digitally linked to their passport they still cannot travel alone and must be accompanied by the adult responsible for them although this does not have to be the person who applied for the child’s initial travel authorisation.
We would also like to draw your attention to the fact that to have the possibility of reusing your ESTA authorisation at a later date it is important to ensure that your future visits also respect the conditions of this programme. This notably concerns the length of your visit which should under no circumstances exceed 90 days as well as the reason for your visit which cannot be related to studying or working on American territory.
On the other hand, for an ESTA authorisation to still remain valid for another visit it is also necessary for the information that was originally given is still correct and none of the answers to the various questions has changed. If a change has occurred since the original application then it may be necessary for the visitor concerned to complete the entire application procedure again from the beginning either as a sole applicant or as part of a group application if they plan to travel with other people again.
The particular case of children bearing a different name to the adults accompanying them:
In certain cases of family visits to the United States children may bear a different name to that of the adult or adults accompanying them. This is notably the case with children accompanying their divorced mother who has resumed her maiden name or children travelling with other members of the family such as their grandparents, or other people bearing a different last name.
In reality this does not really present a problem to obtaining an ESTA authorisation. However it is important to know that to travel to the USA, as with any visit abroad, children of less than 18 years of age must be accompanied by their parents or legal guardians. If this is not the case then parental authorisation must be presented for this travel. This authorisation should be in the form of an authorisation to leave the country signed by one or both of the parents or legal guardians who are not travelling with the child or children and this must also be accompanied by a copy of the passport or identity card of the parent or guardian concerned.
It is therefore important to complete and sign all necessary papers before even starting to plan your family visit to the United States. In this way you will ensure as much as possible that your travel preparations will proceed according to plan without wasting your valuable time or risking a refusal to board your plane for the United States or be refused entry onto American territory by the immigration authorities.
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.