All travellers wishing to visit the USA are no longer obliged to apply for a visa and can, under certain conditions, apply for an ESTA tourist or electronic transit visa. In this section, you will find out everything you need to know about this simplified procedure for obtaining the right to stay in the United States, as well as many useful tips to help you obtain this document quickly and easily, directly online.
The ESTA replaces the visa for tourist travel to the USA:
A few years ago, organising a tourist trip to the USA was a challenge because the administrative procedures for obtaining a visa were so complicated and tedious. Today, the US government has introduced a simplified procedure for travelling to the USA for tourism with the ESTA visa waiver programme. The aim of this new procedure is to simplify both the process of applying for a visa for tourists and the processing of these applications by the US immigration authorities.
Unlike traditional visa applications, an ESTA application is made directly online by filling in and validating a simple form. There is no need to go to an administration or to prepare a file with various supporting documents, as everything is done electronically, as we will explain in more detail below.
But be careful! The ESTA travel authorisation only concerns stays in the USA for the purpose of tourism, visiting a friend or family. Other reasons for travel, such as working or studying in the USA, require a regular visa application. We will also see later in this article that other conditions must also be met in order to benefit from this ESTA authorisation.
Finally, compared to the classic visa, the ESTA authorisation allows you to organise a trip to the United States more easily, in a modern way and above all very quickly since the answer to your request is sent to you by email within 72 hours at the most.
What are the requirements for an online ESTA application?
As we have just seen, an ESTA authorisation can allow you to travel to the USA without having to apply for a visa if you wish to visit the country or a relative. However, we also mentioned above that in order to benefit from this visa waiver programme, it is necessary to fulfil certain preconditions. Let's go through these prerequisites.
First of all, as explained above, the ESTA will only work for certain types of travel to the USA and not all reasons for staying in this country are accepted. Thus, you can use this electronic authorisation for a tourist trip or to visit a family member or friend. The ESTA is also accepted for business travel, provided that you are only dependent on a company located in your country. If you wish to be employed by an American company, even for a simple internship, you will not be able to travel to the United States with an ESTA and will have to apply for a specific visa to be allowed to work in that country. The same applies if you wish to study in the United States, as there is also a specific visa that allows you to fulfil your dream.
In addition to the reason for the trip, you should know that ESTA authorisations only concern stays in the United States that do not exceed 90 days. Beyond this period, you will need a visa. In any case, you will not be able to travel to the USA if you plan to stay for more than three months, even if you intend to apply for a visa after the 90-day period.
Please also note that one of the main conditions to be able to benefit from the ESTA simplified travel authorisation application is to be a resident of one of the member countries of this scheme. Indeed, when this new procedure was set up, the United States signed a specific agreement with certain countries, including the United Kingdom, and the other countries of the world are therefore excluded from this procedure. You can of course consult the complete list of countries that are members of the ESTA system on this site or on the official site of the American government. You must therefore be a permanent resident of one of the countries concerned, such as the United Kingdom, and have a passport issued by that country in order to benefit from this visa exemption.
Finally, you must also have a valid biometric or electronic passport if you wish to use the ESTA system to travel to the USA. Your passport number will be electronically linked to your travel authorisation, so you will need to bring it with you when you apply online.
Of course, these are the prerequisites for accessing the online ESTA application form only. This means that even if you meet these conditions, it is not certain that you will receive a favourable response to your application. The decision whether or not to accept your application for permission to stay rests with the authorities in charge of examining these applications and therefore with US immigration, and the acceptance or refusal of your ESTA will largely depend on the answers you give in the online form.
How does the online ESTA application procedure work?
As you will no doubt have realised, the ESTA application procedure for the United States is done directly online and without having to go to an administration as is often the case with visa applications. You will not need to provide any supporting documents either, but simply bring your passport with you when you access the questionnaire.
From the official website or that of our partner, you can access an online ESTA application form written entirely in English, which will greatly simplify your understanding of the questions asked.
Filling in the form is relatively simple and quick and will only take a few minutes at most. The first part concerns your identity and personal situation. In particular, you will be asked to enter your full name, date of birth, address and professional or marital status. You will also be asked to provide a valid email address (this is the address to which the reply to your application will be sent) and your e-passport or biometric passport number (the validity of which must cover both the application and the journey).
The second part of the form consists of a series of questions about your previous travels, your health and your legal situation. Your answers to these questions will be used here to assess your general profile and to check that you are in compliance with US law and meet the criteria for entry into the USA.
Once the form has been fully completed and you have taken care to answer each question honestly and transparently, you will be given the opportunity to check all your answers before finally validating it. To do this, you will be asked to pay the application fee, which includes the fees charged by the US government as well as the service fee (if you are using a private service provider). This payment is also only made online using your credit card or an electronic wallet such as Paypal or other.
You then have nothing more to do on your side since everything is done automatically. Indeed, a clear and definitive answer will be sent to you by email directly to the address you have mentioned in the questionnaire within a maximum of 72 hours, although most of the time, this answer is obtained much earlier. The email will then tell you whether your ESTA has been accepted or refused.
It should also be noted that if you are travelling with your family, it is possible to apply for ESTA authorisation for your whole family at once. Remember that even children under the age of 18, regardless of their age, are required to have an authorisation to enter the United States.
How to apply for or use an ESTA for travel to the USA
Once you have completed the online ESTA application process and received a positive response to your application, you will not need to present any other document than your passport during your trip to the USA.
In fact, an ESTA authorisation is a kind of dematerialised visa which is actually a travel authorisation electronically attached to your passport. So, when the staff in charge of your flight at the airport or the customs officers in the USA scan your passport, they will see on their screen your authorisation to stay with the dates of validity and obtaining. This of course simplifies the administrative aspect of your trip as you don't have to worry about bringing another important document with you.
On your side, this ESTA authorisation will be completely invisible. Unlike visas, which were previously affixed to one of the pages of the passport, the ESTA does not appear anywhere in a visible manner and only the devices of agents authorised to read these passports can access it.
However, although it is not necessary to present this document during your trip, it may be useful to keep a written record of it in the form of a paper document. This will enable you to protect yourself in the event of a problem and to know at any time the period of validity of your ESTA and its expiry date. This document also contains your file number, which may be useful if you wish to change certain information authorised on your ESTA or consult its status online.