The ESTA request to travel to the United States

ESTA is an automated travel authorization system for the United States. This operation was implemented from 2009. When it was launched, it was free. However, it became chargeable. The price partly includes the costs of files and processing of authorizations by the US government. The ESTA request must be made online and no later than 72 hours before departure for the USA.

What is the ESTA request for?

This pre-trip electronic document strengthens homeland security for flights and shipping to the United States. By providing your information before the flight, the system can then verify that you meet the acceptance criteria on American soil before your arrival in the USA. Previously, this control was done directly at the border post.

This consists of a questionnaire to be completed. The answers will determine whether or not you accept ESTA. The questions are simple and sometimes surprising. They are intended to assure 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 in time during the flight.

Who is affected by the ESTA request

The ESTA or Electronic System for Travel Authorization is part of the visa waiver program. If you are French or you are a national of one of the 38 member countries of the Visa Waiver Program, you can apply for an ESTA authorization . Adults and children even very young are affected by this process. You must have this document before traveling by air or sea. People with a visa or traveling to the USA by land are not required to do so. That said, in some cases, your ESTA form may allow you to speed up the process at the border.

ESTA is useful in which cases?

The usefulness of ESTA asserts itself for very specific trips: tourism, transit or a “business trip” (business trip). When you go to the United States for one of these reasons, and the movement 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 require only a few clicks on the Internet, but it will not require you to pay hundreds of euros, as is generally the case with a visa. ESTA is the solution for leaving easily and inexpensively on American soil!

How to access the request form?

It is easy to access the ESTA form . You complete your request directly on the Internet and the processing is automatic. In the following hours (maximum 72 hours), you will receive your response (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 be useful in the event of loss.

Good to know : To benefit from an official ESTA authorization, you must have a biometric or electronic passport. To find out, simply see the electronic chip on the cover of your passport. Also make sure it is valid for travel to the United States. In accordance with American law, the validity of a foreign national’s passport must cover a period of six months beyond the date scheduled for his departure. If it has expired, you must reapply for a passport before applying for ESTA usa.

ESTA authorization in brief

ESTA 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 request. When you submit the form online, the computer systems process your data and the answers to the questions to determine whether your file validates the conditions of the visa waiver program. You must visit the website to consult the status of your request. If you get confirmation of your approved ESTA, nothing prevents you from printing the message. Here is a visual below illustrating the response obtained by e-mail in the context of an approved ESTA request:

Photo taken from an approved ESTA certificate

Are there any benefits for travelers?

Yes, travelers also gain because they no longer have to apply for a visa. However, certain conditions must be met . Indeed, you must be part of one of the member countries of the visa waiver program or “VWP” (almost all European countries are part of it), stay less than 3 months on American soil; in addition, the purpose of the trip is restricted: transit, tourist or business stay. In addition, like many countries, the United States of America requires visitors to hold a valid electronic or biometric passport. If you meet all of these obligations, your trip to the USA should be carried out without problem thanks to ESTA.

How long is this request valid?

After making your request, your residence permit can be used for two years . You can come and go in the United States several times until the expiration of three months (90 days maximum in succession precisely). In other words, you can spend 20 days in the United States, go 1 month in Mexico and return for 90 consecutive days in any American state. ESTA thus offers great freedom for your road trip across the Atlantic.

Is there a risk of refusal of ESTA?

Rest assured, almost every request leads to a positive response. The few refusals are explained by data entry errors, and of course the non-compliance with the conditions of the authorization (too long stay, expired biometric passport, intention to carry out an internship in the USA, etc.). If you meet the few obligations of the program, there is no doubt that your stay in the United States can be done via the official ESTA. Only advice: take the time to verify your data before validating the sending of the form; a shell can easily slip into it. In case of refusal , you will have to wait 10 days before you can send a new request.

If ESTA doesn’t concern you

If you cannot claim an ESTA, you will need to apply for a visa to enter the United States. Obtaining a visa is a more complicated procedure than applying for ESTA. You must follow a process which includes, among other things, an interview at the American Embassy on which you depend. If you manage to get a visa for the United States, this is what it will look like:

Photo of an American visa