What is ESTA and when is it necessary to apply for it to travel to the United States

Anyone intending to travel to US territory using the visa-free travel program will be required to obtain an ESTA

The term ESTA, acronym for “Electronic System for Travel Authorization” refers to the electronic system designed to allow you to obtain authorization to travel to the United States without a visa. Those who intend to travel to American territory using the Visa Waiver Program (the travel program without a visa), will therefore be obliged to obtain this authorization. As it is not a visa, it can only be used in the following cases:

  • Trip lasting less than 90 days
  • Travel related to tourism or business reasons
  • Stop in the United States

By “United States” we mean not only the continental states; in fact, Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, the Mariana Islands and Guam are also included.

Duration of the ESTA authorization

To request theIt’s online it is necessary to have an electronic passport, the only document accepted starting from April 2016. This type of passport, equipped with a microchip, is recognizable by the presence of a logo inserted on the cover, at the bottom. In addition to the passport, the applicant must have travel tickets (round trip or one way, purchased from an airline or a cruise ship company) and a credit card. The duration of the authorization is 2 years. Within this period it is possible to use it for a series of trips, as long as each of them does not exceed the limit of 90 consecutive days of stay. Being linked to the passport used for the application, if the latter expires before the 24 months have elapsed, the ESTA will also expire.

How to submit the application

Although conceived by the United States Government in 2007, through the Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act, ESTA became mandatory in 2009. The 2007 act assigned the Department of Homeland Security the task of providing life an electronic safety system. The aim was to ensure a more effective control of passengers entitled to use the Visa Waiver Program. To make the request, simply fill in a special online form, entering the personal details of the person who intends to reach the United States (we repeat for no more than 90 consecutive days), some data reported in the passport, and specific travel information. A fundamental requirement in order to proceed with the request is the possession of citizenship. Those who need the authorization must be a citizen of one of the 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (and Italy is part of it). When filling in, having your passport next to you will allow you to enter, among other things, its number (consisting of 2 letters and 7 digits). Once the entered data has been verified and confirmed, it will be necessary to choose the payment method among those provided, waiting for the request to be actually confirmed. The form is available on the official website of the US Department of Homeland Security, and the application costs $ 14, including border control and administrative fees.

Result of the request

If it’s mandatory to apply for an ESTA, once the form is filled in, the answer (whether positive or negative) will be issued within a maximum of 72 hours. Therefore, it is recommended to forward it at least 72 hours after the day of departure to the American territory. Normally, the result is released within a few minutes, although the times tend to lengthen if it is necessary to carry out further checks. If the result is positive (Authorization Approved), the applicant is not required to print the authorization, or to travel with a copy. However, the Department of Homeland suggests that you bring a copy with you, in in order to have a confirmation of the protocol number. If the authorization is denied (Authorization Denied), it will still be possible to access the United States; however, a visa will be required to do so. This document is also essential for those wishing to stay on American soil for more than 90 days, or for people intending to live, study in the States or be hired by US companies.

Learn more about ESTA authorization

What happens if the ESTA expires while an Italian citizen is in the States? Nothing, as it is sufficient for the authorization to be valid when a passenger touches US soil. This is regardless of whether the ESTA remains valid for the entire period of stay. Another aspect that should not be underestimated is that the Visa Waiver Program requires that anyone entering the United States must have travel authorization, regardless of age. Consequently, what has just been written extends the obligation to apply to minors, accompanied or unaccompanied, and to infants destined to travel without an airline ticket (they must bring an electronic passport with them). Before concluding, it is important to remember the cases in which it is necessary to fill in a new application, despite the fact that the first request was successful. This happens when the applicant’s address has changed, if the surname has been changed (this is the case of women who get married), or if the citizenship has changed. You will also have to proceed in the face of an expired pastime, if you commit a documented crime, and for a change of gender.