When the Visa Waiver Program was implemented, nationals of participating countries could travel to the United States without a visa. In order to strengthen the security of the program, and above all to guarantee the internal security of the United States, the American government supplemented the program with the mandatory ESTA .


Whether it’s a trip to the United States or a simple transit, ESTA travel authorization is required for air and sea travel. In general, any entry on American soil is subject to an authorization (American visa, ESTA or other). Note that neither the visa nor the ESTA guarantees entry into the United States, it is up to the immigration officer to determine whether a traveler meets all the criteria and poses no threat.

The choice between visa and ESTA depends on the reasons for the stay in the USA. The advantage of ESTA is that it is quick to obtain since a simple online application is sufficient, unlike the visa application which requires contacting the American embassy. Compulsory ESTA is not available to all, however, and several eligibility conditions must be met.


Being a national of a country participating in the Visa Waiver Program is compulsory; this travel authorization having been created specially for him. Note that travelers with dual Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationality cannot, however, obtain an ESTA authorization.

The travel authorization is linked to the passport, electronic passport or biometric passport only. Thus, in the event of a new passport or a change in its data (not just the passport number), the authorization will have to be renewed.

Travel to the USA must be 90 days maximum. However, it is not necessary to apply for each stay in the United States since the compulsory ESTA authorization is valid for 2 years (or until the passport expires if it takes place before). The number of short stays (tourist stays, business trips or transit) during the validity period is also not limited.

A final restriction to take into account is the ban on ESTA for people who have visited Iraq, Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Sudan and Somalia since March 01, 2011 (under conditions) .


As mentioned, the request for ESTA is made by a form to be completed by the person concerned or a third party. The authorization request can also be made for an individual or for a group.

The ESTA form is very complete, it includes the data contained in the passport, personal information and details of the stay. It is completed by a series of questions whose answers can only be yes or no. The American authorities do not accept any error and no modification can be made (except for the email address and the address in the USA) once the authorization request has been validated and paid.

The traveler has the choice between making his request on the US government site or on a private site, the latter having the advantage of offering a simplified form and assistance if necessary (to fill out the form or for the opinion expert).

Once the request is settled, the authorization is either approved, pending or refused.

As its name suggests, an approved authorization allows you to travel to the USA without any other action being required. There is no need to print the mandatory ESTA document.

A pending authorization implies checking the status of the request within 72 hours (hence the recommendation to make the request for authorization no later than 72 hours before departure).

A refused authorization is not a final ban on travel to the USA. A new request can be made in case of error in the form or a visa request can be addressed to the Embassy of the United States.