All about the ESTA Travel Document
Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

All about the ESTA Travel Document

An ESTA is a travel authorization needed for anyone traveling in the United States without a VISA, including children. Without the Visa, the ESTA travel document will be mandatory for entry in the country. To acquire one, you need to apply for your online ESTA.

What Is An ESTA?

ESTA is an abbreviation standing for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. The ESTA is not a physical document as many people may think but rather an electronic travel authorization for anyone traveling in the United States. And yes, this includes minors as well.

The reason for the requirement of the ESTA document is for safety and security purposes. It is an implementation by the US Customs and Border Protection. This way, the incoming travelers can be screened, and the unwanted visitors barred from crossing in.

The transport companies, including shipping and airlines, have to check-in, before departure that each of their travelers possesses a valid ESTA. To authenticate the validity of your ESTA, they will look up the passport number in the database to verify approval by the Customs and Border Protection Agency.

ESTA Application

You are probably asking yourself why you need an ESTA. It is required for a holiday, business trip, and transit in the USA for a visit of 90 days or less. That means that without the document, they will probably stop you and your children when checking out your flight, ferry, or cruise to the USA. Only people eligible for an ESTA are citizens from a Visa Waiver Program country. 

Your children must possess their own ESTA passport.

Unlike some other visas, the ESTA specifically states that children need their own ESTA and passport. It’s a very strict requirement that is quite unusual. Nothing is more frustrating than boarding your flight or cruise ship to discover that you forgot to include your children when you applied for an ESTA. You will be able to get to board, but your children will not.

You can apply for an online ESTA passport for you and your children online. You won’t need to travel to the embassy. For this reason, it’s easier applying for an ESTA visa than a US visa. The ESTA costs are much lower.

Applying for an ESTA

The first step is to fill out an ESTA application form, which is available digitally on the ESTA application site. The only persons exempt from the ESTA is those traveling by land, who have a US visa or passport.

Fill out a few details, including your children’s information. You will find added features for those you plan on traveling with. Don’t forget to add your children’s information. The form is made in such a way that it will be efficient to fill. It shouldn’t take you long. A few minutes and you should be done.

Payment will also be required to be completed online. The ESTA costs can be paid online via MasterCard, Visa, PayPal, and American Express.

When your application is successful, you will be notified via SMS and email. The approval process is even quicker when you fill it as an emergency. Probably within an hour and your family’s approval should be done, only at an added cost.

Rules Regarding the Application

Upon arrival, the traveler needs to prove that they are planning to leave the United States in the future. A return or transit ticket is enough to validate the proof.

You may need the ESTA as well when touring Alaska, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, the American Virgin Islands, and Guam.

If the traveler poses a threat to security or the public order of the USA, they can be refused entry by homeland security at any time, regardless of whether they have a valid ESTA or a visa.

Sorry, if you have been to Iraq, Iran, Sudan, North Korea, Syria, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia or have at one time held the nationality of one of these countries. They will outright deny you an ESTA just as they will a Visa.

Cost of ESTA

The total cost of an ESTA is 29.95 euros per individual. The price includes consular fees, exchange rate surcharges, and application and service costs. There are no additional fees, not unless it’s an urgent application. Which brings us to;

Urgent Applications

You can submit an urgent ESTA applications through the same form. All you need is to verify that your request is urgent by ticking the ‘urgent delivery’ box.

An additional fee of 17.50 euros applies on top of the regular 29.95 euros. You are then issued with the document within a day after application.

Validity and Requirements

From the moment it’s granted, the ESTA is valid for two years. During the validity period, your family can make unlimited number of trips in and out of the US for both tourism and business purposes. Each stay has a maximum of 90 consecutive days with Canada, Mexico, and the Caribbean islands included in this period. For an extended stay, you will need a visa.

And no, you can’t apply for it by telephone. But you can fill and submit the application form via your smartphone. You fill it in as usual.

We wish you success in your online ESTA application. May you and your family enjoy your visit to the United States.

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