How do you check your ESTA expiry date?
Traveling under the US Visa Waiver Program means that if you are from a visa-exempt country, such as the UK, you do not need to apply for a visa to visit the US, provided you have valid ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization). This applies to all VWP travelers, including infants.
How long is ESTA valid for?
If you already have ESTA approval, having previously made an application, you may be wondering whether your authorization remains valid and if you can rely on it to travel to the US again.
ESTA is granted for a period of 2 consecutive years from the date it was issued. ESTA remains valid for the duration of this 2-year period unless your passport expires sooner, in which case, your ESTA will expire at the same time as your passport.
So, if you applied for ESTA less than 2 years ago and your passport remains valid, your ESTA would usually also still be valid.
ESTA can however be withdrawn or revoked if for example your circumstances change affecting your eligibility for ESTA authorization, such as having a recent criminal conviction.
How to check your ESTA validity
You should check the status of your ESTA before you travel to ensure it will be valid for your arrival in the US. Without a valid ESTA on arrival, you face being denied entry by border officials.
Checking if your ESTA is still valid is relatively straightforward. You can use the ESTA online checking service, inputting your passport number and date of birth to retrieve your details.
The results will return one of the following:
- ESTA Authorization Approved – ESTA authorization is currently valid for travel to the United States.
- Application Pending – The application is under review and may be subject to additional security checks. A decision can take up to 72 hours.
- ESTA Application Expired – ESTA is no longer valid and you will need to make a new application online in advance of travel.
- Application Not Found – This status indicates that either incorrect information has been input which does not match with ESTA records, or no such current or previous ESTA exists. It could also be due to payment of the application fee not being made, or technical issues, such as internet connection problems, preventing the application from having gone through to be processed.
- ESTA Application Not Authorized – The application has been denied and you are not permitted to travel visa-free. You will instead need to apply for a relevant visa to travel to the US.
What if your ESTA has expired?
If your ESTA is no longer valid, you will need to complete a new ESTA application form.
What if ESTA expires while you are in the US?
You only need valid ESTA for when you travel to the US. Your ESTA must be valid on the date you are entering the US, but you can still travel if your ESTA is due to expire once you are in the US. Remember, however, that you cannot stay in the US for longer than 90 days if you have entered the country under ESTA.
Do you need ESTA approval each time you travel to the US?
During the period of ESTA validity, multiple entries are permitted. You do not need to apply for ESTA each time you travel while it remains valid and provided each visit complies with the ESTA visitor rules, for example, the reason for travel is permissible under ESTA and each stay will not exceed the 90-day visit period.
When should I apply for ESTA?
The Department of Homeland security advises travellers to apply for their ESTA no later than 72 hours before departing for the US.
You must have a valid and approved ESTA in place when you travel or you should expect to be denied boarding.
How long is ESTA processing?
Once you have completed the online ESTA application form, the information you have been provided will be verified by CBP. In most cases, successful applications are approved within minutes of being submitted, but it can take up to 72 hours.
What happens if my passport has expired?
If your passport has expired, you will need to apply again for ESTA. It is not possible to transfer ESTA to a different passport, you would need to make a new application.
What happens after my application is approved?
Once your application has been approved, you will receive your unique ESTA authorization number by e-mail which you should retain and keep a record of for future use. It is also helpful to make a record of the date your ESTA was issued and the date it will expire (in 2 years or your passport expiry date, whichever is soonest).
What if you don’t use your ESTA authorization?
If you do not use your ESTA to travel to the US within the 2-year validity period, you would need to apply again to secure a new ESTA for travel. There is no automatic renewal of ESTA and no consideration is given as to whether you availed of the authorization to travel.
Who is eligible for ESTA?
You are eligible to apply for ESTA and to travel under the Visa Waiver Program if you:
- Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit
- Have a valid passport lawfully issued to you by a Visa Waiver Program country
- Have authorization to travel via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
- Arrive via a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier
- Have a return or onward ticket
- Travel may not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas
- Are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries
- The ESTA is valid for 24 months from the date of approval (or to the expiry date of your passport – if the passport expires within the next 24 months).
- The ESTA is a multiple entry visa with each visit being a maximum of 90 days.
- The ESTA 90 day visit limit does not start until you arrive in the USA.
- The holder of an ESTA is entitled to undertake tourism and certain business activities such as exploring job opportunities, consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention or conference.
- The holder of an ESTA is not permitted to engage in any work, study or training.
When will you need to apply again for ESTA?
Does a travel authorization guarantee entry into the United States?
An approved travel authorization only allows you to travel to the US to request entry at the border. ESTA does not guarantee your entry into the US. Admission is determined by border officials, who have powers to question, conduct checks and establish whether you qualify for entry under the Visa Waiver Program and US laws.
This means it will be important to ensure that you have the required permission before travelling to the US as issues at the border can result in detention and deportation if border officials are not satisfied that you meet the conditions for entry. Immigration issues are recorded and are likely to impact any future US immigration applications or entry attempts you make in the future.
For example, if you are a media professional and you are traveling to the US on a professional assignment, ESTA would not be appropriate for your purposes; you would usually need to have secured an I visa for media workers to approve your visit.
Another example is if you have a past criminal conviction and are not sure whether to declare this on your ESTA application. Full disclosure is always advised, as is taking professional guidance on your options as, while ESTA may not necessarily be open to you, other visa routes are likely to be.
What if your ESTA application is refused?
This article does not constitute direct legal advice and is for informational purposes only.