Anyone wishing to travel to the United States may not go there without a visa or travel authorization before leaving.
Many parents who wish to vacation in the United States and benefit from the Visa Waiver Program wonder if they should apply for an ESTA for their children.
This is a legitimate question, especially when traveling with a baby. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security verifies the identity of all travelers before they arrive in the United States, both adults and minors. Before filling out your ESTA questionnaire, find all our advice to travelers about the formalities to be completed before leaving for the United States with a child so that you are not left on the tarmac when you board.
What are the requirements for applying for a child ESTA?
Whether it is an ESTA for a child or an adult, the conditions to be met are exactly the same (be a national of one of the countries concerned by the VWP, stay of 90 days maximum, travel for tourist purposes or in transit, etc.).
As for any trip abroad, outside the European Union, it is mandatory for everyone to have a valid passport in their name. When traveling to the USA, the ESTA is attached to the passport number. A minor must therefore have a biometric passport or an electronic passport, as well as an ESTA for children.
In the case of children of unmarried or divorced couples, whose mother has taken back her maiden name, the child does not always bear the same name as his parent. Therefore, he/she needs a proper identification document and the family booklet is not an acceptable document for a stay in the United States.
Also, if your child does not yet have a travel document and you are planning a vacation in the United States, go to your local city hall with your child to apply for a first passport. Allow one month to receive it.
How do I apply for an ESTA for a minor?
The ESTA application for a minor is the same as for an adult. You must fill out an online form available on the official U.S. government website or on a specialized website.
The advantage is that you can apply online as a group. Make sure you have the passports of all the people traveling with you before you apply. The process is faster than if you had to fill out an ESTA form for each person separately.
With a validity period of 2 years, the ESTA for children allows you to make several trips to the USA during this period and will not be required for a future trip.
The application fee for a minor’s travel authorization is the same as for an adult’s, and the amount is the same for both adults and children – the U.S. authorities do not give preferential rates here!
Important note: The only difference between an ESTA application for a child and for an adult is the way the form is filled out: the parent or guardian can fill out the ESTA application for the minor, but must be sure to check the box “Application made by a third party” to certify that an adult has indeed made the application on behalf of the child It is important to know that a minor cannot make the request himself and therefore depends on a third person. Even if the child does not answer the questions, the information provided by the parent or legal guardian must be truthful.
Other documents needed for children traveling to the United States
If a minor is traveling to the U.S. for an internship abroad, a study abroad trip, or simply to visit relatives and tour the U.S., he or she may travel accompanied by a parent or not. However, he or she must have an authorization to leave the country (AST). Reinstated since January 15, 2017, this decree concerns all minors living in France and traveling abroad without being accompanied by both parents, with the aim of preventing, among other things, the abduction of minors. This may seem like an exaggeration, but it happens in divorce cases.
To summarize, in order to enter the United States, a minor must have the following documents that will likely be requested by customs officials at the border crossing:
- an ESTA authorization for minors in his/her name;
- a valid French passport in his/her name;
- a plane or cruise ticket in his name;
- the original form of the authorization to leave the country signed by one of the two parents (or the legal representative);
- a photocopy of the signatory’s identity card.
Traveling with a baby or a child is not always easy! Armed with these valuable tips, you are now ready to apply for travel authorization for yourself and/or your children with peace of mind. We remind you that the ESTA application must be requested as soon as possible in order to be able to reapply if necessary or, in case of refusal, to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy.