17 Oct How Do You Apply for and Check Your ESTA Status
Are you preparing for a trip to the United States? You need to make sure you have your documents ready before you leave for the airport.
If you live in a country that’s a member of the Visa Waiver Program, then visits to the United States are a breeze. All you need to do is apply for an ESTA before you leave.
Do you need to apply for an ESTA or check your ESTA status? Keep reading to learn more about what you need to do before takeoff.
What is an ESTA?
An ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is not a visa. Instead, it is an automated program that assesses the eligibility of potential visitors to the U.S. who live ina Visa Waiver Program country.
The Visa Waiver Program includes 38 countries, including European and Asian countries.
However, you must have an e-passport to use the ESTA system. An e-passport includes an electronically readable page as well as built-in biometrics details.
It does not include Canada and Mexico. Canadians do not need a visa or ESTA to enter the United States unless they intend to immigrate to the U.S. Mexican nationals do need a visa to enter the United States; they must apply for a B-1 or B-2 (or a combination) visa at a U.S. embassy within Mexico.
How to Apply for ESTA
Applying for an ESTA only takes a few minutes. Before you get started, you need:
- Your passport
- Your contact details
- A credit or debit card (or PayPal account)
- Your employment details (in some cases)
You begin and complete the application process on the U.S. Customers and Border Patrol ESTA website. You can submit an individual application for you or a group of applications for your family or another group.
Once you begin the process, there are six steps to complete, including payment.
It costs $14 per ESTA application, but you don’t need to pay when you apply. You can go back and pay later. (ESTAs only cost $4 if the U.S. denies you.)
When Should You Apply for an ESTA?
In the past, you could apply for an ESTA on the way to the airport. Today, the U.S. government requests that you apply at least 72 hours in advance.
It usually takes only ten minutes to process the application. You typically have confirmation within an hour.
If you don’t, then you might want to check on your ESTA status.
Do You Have to Show Proof of Your ESTA?
In most cases, there’s no need to provide proof of your ESTA when you go to the airport. Some airlines may have policies requiring it, but it’s not a U.S. regulation. It can be helpful to print it out for your records.
However, the airlines and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) already have your proof of ESTA, which they receive electronically.
How to Check Your ESTA Status
In most cases, you won’t need to check your ESTA status. The average person receives confirmation within an hour.
The primary reason that people need to check their ESTA status is to submit payment. You can update an unpaid application and submit payment within seven days of your initial application.
You can do this from the same ESTA website that you use to apply. The page is the same: all you need to do is scroll down below the application button to the “Check ESTA Status” section of the page.
In addition to updating and paying for your application, you can:
- Check your status
- Review completed forms
- View payment receipts
Most of the time, you’ll see your status right away and be able to get on the plane.
Was Your ESTA Denied?
An ESTA is an electronic permit that informs the U.S. of your intention to visit. It does not mean you have permission to enter. Although the vast majority of visa applications get approved, you can be turned away at the border. And the government can also deny your ESTA.
Why would the U.S. government deny your ESTA application?
Most rejections are the result of common reasons like:
- Overstaying a previous visa or visa waiver
- Providing incorrect information on your application
- Having a criminal record (usually a drug violation or crime involving moral turpitude)
- Misrepresented yourself or a material fact
- Sharing information (names, birthdates) with a criminal
- Traveling to, transiting through countries on the “banned list”
However, the State Department won’t provide you with the reason for your rejection. Nor do they have to if you ask.
Additionally, there is no right to appeal to an ESTA rejection. There’s also no court available to appeal to. If you get rejected, then that’s it.
You can reapply if you made a mistake on your application, and you know what the mistake was. However, if your rejection was the result of a criminal record or having overstayed, any new applications will meet the same fate.
Are There Alternatives?
If you live in a Visa Waiver Program state and you don’t qualify for an ESTA, you have options.
They all require you to visit the U.S. embassy in person.
Here, you can apply for a visitor visa in your home country. This can also be an opportunity to sort out misunderstandings. For example, if someone with your name has a criminal record and the U.S. mistakes you for them, you can provide documents proving that you are a distinct person.
There are also expedited appointment options available in some Visa Waiver Program countries if your trip to the U.S. is an emergency, such as a funeral.
You should avoid booking flights until you receive your visa.
Are You About to Make an ESTA Application?
If you live in one of the 38 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, then all you need to do is fill out a short form and pay $14. Then, you’re on your way to the United States!
While most applications receive an approval within ten minutes, delays happen. You can check your ESTA status on the CBP website.
Are you off to America? Share your travel plans in the comments below.