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Entry Requirements

Have you got your ESTA?

Official ESTA Website

The old I-94 system for entry into the USA is decades old and an important reason behind the changeover is to bring the programme into the 21st century, automate the procedure and, wherever possible, get rid of the paper.  It also means that travellers will know before they leave their country of origin / arrival in the US, that they should be OK for entry (but not guaranteed). Leaving the green departure record accidentally on departure in the traveller’s passport also becomes a problem of the past.

US Government Legislation
This new system has been mandated by US Government legislation, following 9/11 and is very much based on a similar system called ETA that has been working successfully in Australia for some years.

Submit an ESTA application

ESTA applications should be submitted as soon as travel arrangements are made. It is recommended that the application is submitted at least 72 hours before departure; however the system will accommodate last minute travel. You can apply directly from the ESTA site.


ESTA Supplementary Information

Airline Acceptance of ESTA
Online completion is mandatory for all Visa Waiver Programme travellers to the USA provided that the airline used is capable of receiving and validating ESTA data. If the airline does not have this capability, then the old manual I-94W form will continue to be used and which will be distributed to passengers by that airline, normally either at check in or in flight.

When to apply?
The online version is available for use now. It is recommended that applications be completed at least 72 hours before departure – applications can be made after that but they run the risk that approval may not be received ahead of travel.

What happens to ESTA applications?
Once the online application has been completed and, assuming it is satisfactory, the system will normally respond with an approval very quickly. Travellers should make a note of the ESTA approval number in case they need to access their application later – such as updating a travel itinerary. Some applications may take up to 72 hours to approve whilst data is checked. Currently, there is no charge for an ESTA application and no more information is sought than has been required under the I-94W system.

Change of name or marital status?
In order to register a change of name or marital status, a new ESTA application must be completed.

Who can complete ESTA?
Each family member travelling is required to complete an ESTA application and third party entry of data into ESTA is permitted – whether a relative or not. However, the third party must be completely certain as to the accuracy of such entries. Any inaccuracies will be taken up with the applicant - NOT the third party and the applicant remains totally responsible for their own records.

Don’t know the US destination address or flight details yet?
ESTA applications can still be made without a full address and flights. In the short term flight details are not required and a generic address only will suffice. E.g. City and State. Applicants should register full address & flight details once known.

Repeat Visits? Change of Itinerary?
Updating ESTA data for repeat visits within the 2 year ESTA duration is recommended but is not mandatory. I.e. Upon entry into the USA, the Customs and Border Protection Officer may ask additional questions if a traveller’s current itinerary differs from information submitted in the ESTA application. Updating ESTA with new arrival and first night’s stay data could save time at the point of entry and result in fewer questions.

Travellers who have been to the USA before, will know that additional information, called APIS, is already required relating to the traveller’s journey. As ESTA & APIS data cover two different requirements, both systems have to run independently. At some point the two may be merged so that duplicate information does not have to be provided but currently there is no planned date for such a change.

ESTA Refusals?
Experience to date confirms that ESTA has not created additional refusals to travel over current levels – currently ESTA refusals are less than 0.5%. Any applicant receiving a refusal and still wishing to travel to the USA will need to apply to the US Embassy for a Visa.

Forgotten your ESTA number?
If you need to submit a new destination address or flight details but have forgotten your ESTA number, please submit a new application and the system will adjust appropriately.


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