Travel without a visa to the USA with the official ESTA

Are you a fan of American culture? It has never been easier to travel to the USA. It is perfectly possible to travel to the United States without a B2 tourist visa. A simple electronic travel authorization is all you need: the official ESTA. Established by the U.S. administration, its objective is to strengthen homeland security while facilitating entry into the United States. However, the official ESTA is not available to everyone. In this article, we will see the different conditions that must be met to be eligible for ESTA. We will then detail the procedure to follow to apply for it.

Eligibility requirements for theofficial ESTA United States

The nationality of the citizen

The first thing to check before applying for the official ESTA authorization is to make sure that your nationality is part of the VWP (Visa Waiver Program). This visa waiver scheme covers a total of 40 nations since 2022. Among the member countries, there are the EU countries (France, Italy, Spain, Poland, etc.), Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

European citizens are therefore entitled to travel to the USA without a visa, provided that they do not hold dual Syrian, Iraqi, Iranian or Sudanese nationality.

The traveler’s passport

To enter the country, you must of course always be accompanied by a valid identity document. U.S. authorities require travelers to have a biometric or electronic passport. This condition is valid for both the ESTA and the USA visa.

It is also required to have a valid passport covering the entire duration of your trip to the USA. If your passport expires before you leave for the United States, you will need to renew it at your local city hall.

How to enter the United States

The ESTA visa authorizes foreign nationals to enter the country by air or sea. If you arrive in the USA by land, it is now also necessary to apply for an ESTA from Mexico or Canada, the form l94-W is not enough since May 2022.

The reason for the trip to the USA

The official ESTA is only issued for three types of stay in the USA:

  • a tourist trip (visit of New York, camping in the national parks, road-trip in the American West…);
  • a business trip (visiting a business partner, signing a contract, conference, etc.). Please note that if you wish to go to the USA for an internship or to work, you will not be able to benefit from the ESTA. You must apply for a US visa at the US Embassy;
  • transit in the USA to your final destination.

Length of stay in the United States

If you plan to stay in the USA for 90 days or less, you may be able to enter the USA with an official ESTA certificate. You will be required to present a round trip or onward ticket (exit) to the immigration officer.

If your stay exceeds this threshold, even by one day, you will need to apply for a US visa. To obtain a U.S. visa, you will need to go to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

If you meet all of the requirements, you can then officially submit an application for temporary entry into the United States.

How to apply for an official ESTA?

To request an official ESTA authorization, the procedure is simple: just fill out an online form. To access the application form, visit the official U.S. government website.

The online form on the official website

The official ESTA form is quick to complete. However, it requires a certain amount of rigor, because if the information requested is incorrect, the U.S. government’s electronic systems may reject your application. Be careful, especially for married women: the last name to be indicated on the ESTA form is the name appearing on your passport (maiden name or married name).

The official ESTA form is structured as follows:

  1. the first part is related to your marital status and the reasons for your trip to the United States;
  2. In the second part, you will need to provide your passport information (passport number, country of issue, expiration date, etc.);
  3. the last part is a questionnaire. You will have to answer ten closed questions (yes or no answers). These questions ask about your criminal history, previous stays abroad, and current health status.

If you have not committed any careless mistakes, are not subject to a communicable disease, and have never been convicted of a crime, US Customs and Border Protection will most likely approve your application online.

After submitting your application on the official ESTA website, you will be asked to wait a maximum of 72 hours before receiving a response from the government.

Official ESTA application: what price?

Applying for an official ESTA online will incur a mandatory $21 administrative fee. The ESTA USA fee is composed as follows:

  • 4 USD for the application processing fee ;
  • 17 USD for the authorization fee account. The amount collected is used to promote US tourism internationally. If your official ESTA application is rejected by the U.S. government, you will not have to pay this fee.

In order to pay, you will simply be asked to enter your credit card details (Mastercard, Visa, American Express, etc.).

Conditions of use of theOfficial ESTA USA

When granted, the official Official ESTA USA has a validity period of 24 months. It allows nationals to make several tourist or business trips to the USA during this period. However, this condition is only valid if you are in possession of a valid passport. If the identity document expires before the end date of your ESTA, your online travel authorization will become unusable.

After two years, if you wish to visit the United States again, it is possible to renew the official ESTA USA document. The procedure is the same as for your first ESTA application: simply go to the U.S. government website and submit a new application using your new passport.

Note that it is not necessary to print the ESTA form before going to the USA. To ensure that you are in possession of theOfficial ESTA, the agent at the border crossing will simply scan your passport. Thanks to the information systems of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the control officer will be able to see instantly if you have the authorization to stay in the United States.

What to do if your official ESTA has been denied?

If ever the American authorities refuse to grant you ESTA travel authorization. First, make sure that the rejection is not due to an error in the form. At this stage, two cases are possible:

  • an error appears on the form. You will have to start the procedure from scratch from the official ESTA website;
  • there is no error. The refusal is likely due to a failure to meet the requirements for a visa waiver. The only possible alternative is to contact the US embassy or consular services to apply for a visa.

Please note that applying for an ESTA on a private website is in no way an obstacle to obtaining an official ESTA. The value of your ESTA is not affected. The difference is the personalized assistance you receive to reduce the risk of rejection.