Maybe you are planning a visit to New York and wish to learn more about the travel documents necessary, more precisely if you require an ESTA or visa for your visit. In this article we will explain the differences between these two types of travel authorisation and how to obtain each of them including details on the application procedures. But first, let us look at if it is truly necessary to hold a travel authorisation to visit New York.
ESTA or visa to visit New York
- A visa or ESTA is required for travel to New York.
- Citizens of countries that are members of the ESTA system can travel to New York without a visa
- If you are not eligible for an ESTA for New York, you will need to apply for a regular visa
- An ESTA or visa is also required for a stopover or transit in New York.
Is a travel authorisation obligatory to travel to New York?
If you travel frequently to other European countries maybe you think that a visit to New York only requires a passport in terms of official documents. But this is in fact not the case. The American government is in fact very strict relating to entry onto American territory and you can therefore not visit New York without previously obtaining an official travel authorisation, even if you plan to visit for just a few days or your holidays.
There are currently two types of travel authorisation that enable you to visit the USA; the Visa and the ESTA. In this article we will explain the differences between these two travel authorisations that have distinctly different application procedures and are suitable for different types of visitors.
In all cases, without one of these travel authorisations you cannot travel to the United States. Your visa or ESTA will in fact be checked at the time of boarding and again when you enter the United States.
It is also important to note that all visitors need a travel authorisation, including children and babies, even if they are accompanied by their parents. It should also be noted that even if you travel to a different final destination but need to transit or make a stopover through an American airport you will still need this travel authorisation in the same way as if you actually stayed in this country.
What is the difference between an ESTA and a visa to go to New York?
Let's move on to the differences between an ESTA and a visa if you want to travel to New York. Both travel authorisations are valid for this destination, but they differ in certain respects.
The ESTA is a simplified electronic authorisation, also known as the Visa Waiver Program. This system was introduced relatively recently and allows certain travellers to avoid having to apply for a traditional visa by applying for travel authorisation online. Of course, as we'll see below, certain criteria and preconditions must be met in order to benefit from this system.
But what are the differences in procedures? The visa application procedure has recently been modernised to allow online applications. However, you will also need to send certain documents by post and, in some cases, visit an embassy for an interview about the reasons for your trip. With ESTA, all you have to do is fill in a simple online questionnaire without having to travel or send any paper documents.
Another important difference lies in the time it takes to obtain these residence permits. An ESTA can be obtained within a maximum of 72 hours of validation of the online application. For visas, the process takes longer, ranging from a few days for the simplest applications to several months for the most complex.
We also like the fact that an ESTA authorisation can allow you to make several trips to New York or elsewhere in the United States. This authorisation will be valid for two years from the date of issue, so you won't have to apply several times for future stays, transits or stopovers in the USA.
Finally, the fees for each of these procedures are also different. The visa costs slightly more than the ESTA, whose fees are payable directly online at the time of application.
In what situations can an ESTA be used to travel to New York?
As you will have realised, the ESTA is a much more advantageous way of travelling to the United States, and therefore to New York, than a visa. But an ESTA can only be applied for under certain conditions. Here is a list of the criteria you need to meet in order to benefit from this simplified procedure:
First of all, ESTA only applies to travellers who are citizens of one of the member countries of the ESTA system. Of course, most European countries are part of this programme, as are other countries around the world such as Norway and Chile. You need to check that you live permanently in one of these countries to take advantage of this system. Logically, your passport must also have been issued by one of these countries.
Your passport must also be valid at the time of your ESTA application, and its validity must cover your entire trip. Only biometric and electronic passports are accepted, as the ESTA is linked to these passports electronically and by computer.
The purpose of your trip to New York must also be specific to the ESTA system. Only trips to visit the United States, to visit a relative or for business purposes are authorised. If you want to go to the USA to work or to live there, you will need to apply for a regular visa.
The ESTA must also be used only for stays of limited duration. You can therefore use it to stay in New York for a maximum of 90 days. If you plan to stay longer, you will need to apply for a visa.
For your ESTA to be valid, you must also be in possession of a return ticket proving that you intend to leave American territory before the 90-day deadline.
Note also that a new rule has recently been added to the previous ones, concerning dual nationals. Dual nationals with Iranian, Iraqi, Syrian or Sudanese nationality cannot travel to New York with an ESTA.
As you will no doubt have already realised, you must meet all these conditions to benefit from your ESTA and not have to apply for a visa.
When do you need a visa to travel to New York?
Let's move on to the specific cases where you still need to apply for a visa to travel to New York.
Firstly, if you don't meet all the conditions we mentioned above for applying for an ESTA, you will of course need to apply for a visa. However, just because you are not eligible for ESTA does not mean that you automatically have to cancel your trip.
For example, if you do not live in one of the countries covered by the system, you can apply for a visa if you wish to stay in the USA for more than 90 days, or if you plan to work or study there. However, you will need to choose the type of visa best suited to your situation. There are various types of visa for the United States, including Business/Tourism visas B1, B2 and B ½, Athletes and Artists visas O and P, Au Pair visas J, Official Diplomatic visas A, C3, G and NATO, Domestic Worker visas B1, A3, G5 and NATO 7, Student visas F and M, Investor visas E, Journalist visas I, Exchange, Training or Internship visas J, Transit visas C, Work visas H, L and Q.
You may be wondering why there is a tourist visa when ESTA also offers this type of residence permit. In fact, these visas are for tourists who do not meet the other ESTA conditions.
Although the visa allows you to visit New York if you do not benefit from the ESTA visa waiver programme in most cases, there are of course situations in which this travel authorisation will also be rejected. This is particularly the case for nationals of certain countries, or people whose legal or health situation does not allow them to enter the United States. There is therefore no guarantee that you will obtain this visa, as it is only after a full review of your application that the American consulate will decide whether or not to grant you this pass.
How do I apply for an ESTA to travel to New York online?
If you have read this article and you meet the requirements for an online ESTA application to travel to New York, we will now explain how the application procedure works in practice.
Firstly, you need to go to the official website or to a website that offers an application form in your language, such as the one we recommend here. From this site, you can complete your application online in just a few minutes. Before applying, make sure you have all the necessary information, including your passport number. If you are travelling with family or friends, you may also be able to make a group ESTA application on sites such as the official ESTA site.
You will be asked to provide a number of details in this questionnaire, including your identity (surname, first name, date of birth), address, occupation and family situation. You will also be asked to provide a valid email address to which the reply to your application will be sent.
The rest of the questionnaire consists of a number of simple questions about your criminal record, your state of health and the reasons for your stay in New York. You must of course answer all these questions truthfully, as the answers you give may of course be checked by the American authorities.
Once you have completed the questionnaire, you can check your answers before it is finally validated. Remember to reread all your answers carefully, as a simple mistake could prevent you from travelling to New York as you had planned. You will then have to pay the fees required to register and process your application. This payment is made by credit card directly online on a secure server. Once again, make sure you follow this procedure to the end.
Once you have completed this final stage, all you have to do is wait for the US authorities to reply. This will be sent to you by email within a maximum of 72 hours, although it usually only takes a few hours. There is no need to print out your ESTA or keep a paper version, as this travel authorisation is electronic and will be automatically attached to your passport, which will therefore be the only official document you need to present when travelling. However, you still have the option of receiving your ESTA by post if you prefer to have a physical record of your application. It is also advisable to keep the reply email from the US authorities so that you can access the status and validity date of your ESTA at any time, as well as your file number if you wish to make any subsequent changes.
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.