Formalities for travel to the United States
The formalities for entering the United States for a stay of less than 90 days can be carried out directly via the Internet. It is not necessary to obtain an appointment at the American Embassy or Consulate.
For a stay of less than 90 days in the United States: You can complete the formalities for entry into the United States directly by Internet by clicking on the online form. There is no need to make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate, or to obtain a visa.
The online form can be completed in a few minutes if you have your travel documents with you, you just need to fill in the personal information requested in the ESTA application. Payment is made directly after completing the online form, and you will receive confirmation that your ESTA is validated within minutes.
The ESTA is an automated system for authorizing travel to the United States. This operation was implemented in 2009. When it was launched, it was free. However, it has become a paid service. The price includes part of the cost of the application and processing of the authorizations by the U.S. government. The ESTA application must be made online and no later than 72 hours before departure to the United States.
What are the rules for entering the United States?
Since November 8, 2021 the borders of the United States are open to foreign travelers. However, they must present before boarding:
- Vaccination certificate proving that they are fully vaccinated according to the U.S. requirements for COVID-19 (coronavirus) vaccine;
- Proof of a very recent negative Coronavirus test (less than 24 hours);
- A biometric or electronic passport;
- A valid ESTA.
What is the purpose of the ESTA application?
This electronic pre-travel document enhances domestic security for flights and shipping to the United States. By providing your pre-flight information, the system can then verify that you meet the criteria for acceptance on U.S. soil before you even arrive in the U.S. Previously, this control was done directly at the border post.
This consists of a questionnaire to be filled out. The answers will determine whether or not you are accepted for ESTA. The questions are simple and sometimes surprising. They are intended to assure the American authorities that you are not linked to a terrorist organization, that you are not a criminal, etc. This questionnaire replaces the green form that was provided to you during the flight.
Who is concerned by the ESTA application
The ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is part of the Visa Waiver Program. If you are a French citizen or a citizen of one of the 39 member countries of the Visa Waiver Program, you can apply for an ESTA authorization. It is necessary to be in possession of this document before making a trip by air or sea. Persons with visas or traveling to the U.S. by land are not required to do so. However, in some cases, your ESTA form may allow you to speed up the border process.
When is ESTA useful?
TheESTA is useful for specific trips: tourism, transit or a business trip. When you travel to the United States for one of these reasons, and the trip is limited to 90 days maximum, you can take advantage of a simpler system than the visa, thanks to the Visa Waiver Program of which France is a part. Not only does the travel authorization process only require a few clicks on the Internet, but it will not require you to pay hundreds of euros, as is usually the case with a visa. The ESTA is the solution to leave easily and at a lower cost on American soil!
How to access the application form?
It is easy to access the ESTA form. You fill in your application directly on the Internet and it is processed automatically. Within the following hours (maximum 72 hours), you will receive your answer (acceptance or refusal). You can go through many specialized sites whose cost of the request varies between 40 and 60 euros. The registration sites are in French. You have support and assistance at all times. In addition, your contact details and your receipt will be saved on the site, which can prove useful in the event of loss.
Good to know: To obtain an official ESTA authorization, you must have a biometric or electronic passport. To find out, just look for the electronic chip on the cover of your passport. Also, make sure it is valid for travel to the United States. Under U.S. law, a foreign national’s passport must be valid for six months beyond the date of departure. If it has expired, you must apply for a new passport before applying for ESTA.
ESTA authorization in brief
TheESTA authorization is not a tangible document such as a passport. This is an answer that can be found on the Internet, via your account created during the official ESTA application. When you submit the online form, the computer systems process your data and the answers to the questions to determine if your file can validate the conditions of the visa waiver program. You must visit the website to check the status of your application. If you receive confirmation of your approved ESTA, there is nothing to stop you from printing the message. Below is a visual of the email response to an approved ESTA application:
Are there any benefits for travelers?
Yes, travelers also benefit because they no longer need to apply for a visa. However, it is necessary to respond to certain conditions. Indeed, you must be a member of the Visa Waiver Program or “VWP” (almost all European countries are part of it), stay less than 3 months on the American soil; moreover, the reason for the trip is restricted: transit, tourist or business stay. In addition, like many countries, the United States of America requires visitors to have a valid electronic or biometric passport. If you meet all of these requirements, your trip to the United States should go smoothly with the ESTA.
How long is this request valid?
Once you have applied, your residence permit can be used for two years. You can come and go in the U.S. several times until the three months expire (90 days maximum in a row, to be precise). That is, you can spend 20 days in the U.S., go to Mexico for 1 month and return for 90 consecutive days in any U.S. state. The ESTA offers a great freedom for your road-trip across the Atlantic.
Is there a risk of ESTA refusal?
Rest assured, almost every request results in a positive response. The few refusals are due to data entry errors and, of course, failure to comply with the conditions of the authorization (stay too long, expired biometric passport, intention to do an internship in the USA, etc.). If you meet the few requirements of the program, there is no doubt that your stay in the United States can be done via the official ESTA. The only advice: take the time to check your data before sending the form; a typo can easily slip in. If your application is rejected, you will have to wait 10 days before you can submit a new application.
If ESTA does not apply to you
If you are not eligible for an ESTA, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the United States. Obtaining a visa is a more complicated process than applying for ESTA. You must follow a process that includes an interview at the American embassy where you live.