ESTA – THE COMPLETE GUIDE for New York

This is the Complete and Detailed Guide on how to make ESTA Application to travel to New York and the USA in general.

Since January 12, 2009, in addition to having a valid passport, you must obtain ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) authorization to enter New York and the entire United States.

We suggest you reading this article in the planning phase of your next NYC trip, together with the following articles:

How much to tip in NYC
5 Mistakes Tourists make when visiting NYC
3 Times Square Scams to watch out for
Hotels section in our BLOG
Food section in our BLOG
Free things to do in NYC

In this article we will understand what ESTA is, where and how to get it before we leave for our trip to New York.

WHAT IS THE ESTA FOR NEW YORK?

ESTA means Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

There are two documents that are strictly necessary to travel to New York:

  1. Your valid Passport
  2. The ESTA.

The ESTA can be done on your own online, the issuance is very quick, costs a few dollars (14$) and you pay it only by credit card.

If you continue reading this article you will have a detailed guide on how to prepare your ESTA and when to do it.

An important clarification: obtaining ESTA in itself does not guarantee entry into New York upon arrival at customs. It only authorizes the traveler to board the means of transportation en route to the United States. The access to the United States of America is perfected with the immigration and customs controls that are carried out as soon as you land in one of the airports of New York. Here the customs controls will verify your identity, the validity of the documents in your possession (Passport + ESTA) and what you are carrying in your luggage.

So having ESTA is necessary but not sufficient to enter the U.S., you must of course be in order with all things, although in the case of a tourist trip there are no particular difficulties.

REQUIREMENTS FOR APPLYING FOR ESTA

It seems obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that ESTA must be done by every traveler, of any age, who goes to New York for tourism.

In order to obtain ESTA you must:

Possess a valid Passport.

Travel for leisure (vacation)

Stay in the United States no longer than 90 days

Be in possession of a return ticket (certifying stay < 90 days).

In all other cases, you must apply for an ordinary visa.

In order to fill out the online form to obtain ESTA you will also need to know

Personal data of each applicant (mandatory)

Passport data for each applicant (mandatory)

Airport of embarkation (not mandatory – it can be modified once you obtain the ESTA)

Address where you will spend your first night in New York (not required – it can be modified once you obtain the ESTA)

WHEN TO APPLY FOR ESTA?

ESTA authorization must be applied for and obtained before you travel. The application can be submitted through the website at any time, in most cases you will receive a reply within a few seconds.

If in doubt, do it even a week before leaving for the USA, when you are sure that the trip will take place without unforeseen events, and that the information on the hotel where you are staying is confirmed (although it is possible to change it).

WHERE TO APPLY FOR ESTA

To fill out the ESTA application form and obtain the document, go to the U.S. government’s official website (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta) and fill out the online application.

HOW TO APPLY FOR ESTA?

The process is simple, guided and usually has a very quick turnaround (from minutes to a few hours depending on how many applications are queued in the system).

It is best to follow the flow of information required by the website, fill it out carefully, and get to the end quickly.

As a guide, we will outline the steps for a guided ESTA completion.

2. In the first place, if you don’t speak English, you should change the language to something else. For example, you could change it to French, German, or Spanish. There are little flags at the top on the right. Please do so in order to get a better idea of how to answer the questions.

3. Click on the button “CREATE NEW APPLICATION”, then “Individual Application”.

4. Confirm by clicking on the Release of Liability and Travel Promotion Act.

5. Fill in the fields on the applicant (you) and your identity.

NOTE: Please provide a valid e-mail address and be sure to enter it correctly (there is a confirmation process).

6. Fill out the travel information requested .

7. Respond to the travel eligibility request (for those who are within the scope of ESTA).

8. Verify the information carefully before proceeding.

9. In the next step, pay with a credit card (the only form of payment). There is a fee of 14 dollars for this service. Scams happen if you end up on a website that asks you to pay more than 14$. Leave that site and come back to the right one: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta

10. Wait for the outcome of the ESTA request.

TYPES OF RESPONSES FROM THE ESTA APPLICATION

You may receive the following responses as a result of your application:

Approved Authorization: authorized travel.

Unauthorized travel: You will need to obtain a visa from the Embassy.

Authorization pending: Check the ESTA website again, you will receive a response within 72 hours. You will get an email with the number of your ESTA process. If you want to go back to the ESTA website and see how your process is going, you can use this.

HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO APPLY FOR ESTA?

There is a $14 administrative fee for the ESTA form. It can only be paid by credit card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express and Discover) when filling out the form online.

HOW LONG IS VALID THE ESTA?

The ESTA remains valid for the next 2 years, unless it is revoked or your passport expires in the meantime.

UPDATING THE ESTA FROM A PREVIOUS TRIP

As mentioned, an ESTA authorization is valid for 2 years from the time of issuance.

Within the two years of validity, it can be used for several different trips to the United States.

If you find yourself returning to New York or the USA within 2 years of a previous ESTA trip, you can update the previous ESTA so that you do not need to apply for a new one.

You can only update the following information within your ESTA process:

  • Residential Address in New York: you can update your residential address, replacing the one from your previous trip with the new accommodation you will have in New York.
  • E-mail address

Updating the ESTA is free of charge, as you are changing the one you have already paid for.

If in the meantime other information has changed, such as your passport number because you have renewed it in the meantime (because it has expired/been lost, etc.), then it is NOT possible to update it, but you will have to apply for a new ESTA, following the normal procedure described on this page (with new payment).

In general, a new ESTA must be applied for if the following information has changed:

New Passport

Change oft he First or Last Name

Gender reassignment

Change of Country of Citizenship

HOW DO I UPDATE THE ESTA AUTHORISATION?

On the official website where you applied for ESTA, there is a function to retrieve your previous application and update your information.

You will then be asked for your passport number and the file number of your previous ESTA, which will be used to retrieve the application and update it.

At the end of this process, you will receive the new certificate with the updated data, which you can use for your new vacation in New York.

DO I HAVE TO PRINT MY ESTA FOR NEW YORK?

You don’t have to print your ESTA. It can also be on your phone. After going through all your documents at the airport, they’ll ask you to show them your ESTA documents. You can show proof of your ESTA  on your phone.

Of course, if you print it, it will be faster, easier, and cleaner.

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