ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorisation

Visitors to the USA may be aware that they have changed their entry procedures. The original paper based I-94 system has been updated and replaced by the introduction of ESTA-(Electronic System for Travel Authorisation). Online completion of ESTA is now mandatory for all Visa Waiver Programme travellers to the USA.

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.

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 by clicking here.

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.

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.

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.

Don’t forget your holiday insurance!
If you are taking a trip in the near future, make sure you take out holiday insurance before you go. travel insurance offers cover for a family for 14 days in the USA from just £36.05*. You can get a quote and instant cover by going online to

*Prices are correct at time of going to press (January 2009) and are subject to change. Prices are based on 2 adults under 35 years old and 2 children under 18 years old travelling for a 14 day period to the USA.

Please note, Holidaysafe's online prices automatically include a 15% discount against our Customer Service Centre prices.
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