How to obtain the ESTA authorization for the United States

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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Is your next trip to the United States? You have already written down the itinerary, what to visit, where to eat and where to shop… but you know what are the documents required to enter American soil? To reinforce security measures, the American government has devised an online system that from 12 January 2009 makes it necessary to obtain theESTA (Electronic System for Traver Authorization) to enter the country. It is a mandatory document which is part of the Visa Waiver Program and if you are wondering how to obtain it, what is its validity and where it is required, continuing to read this article you will have the answer to all your questions. Take a note!


  1. How to do the ESTA for the United States
  2. How long is the ESTA authorization valid?
  3. When and how long before should it be done?
  4. Who should take the ESTA?
  5. User questions and comments

How to do the ESTA for the United States

You can easily apply online by connecting to the website to apply for ESTA, in 4 quick steps:

  • Fill in the online form
  • Check that the data entered is correct
  • Make payment
  • Wait for your ESTA authorization

In order to apply for ESTA you must have an electronic passport, the only one currently accepted. You can recognize the electronic passport by the logo visible on the cover and by the microchip inserted inside it. The data contained within the microchip will be useful for border agents to carry out checks upon arrival in the United States.

Do all this when you have chosen the destination (or destinations if you are traveling "on the road") and the structure (s) where you will be staying as you will be asked for some information regarding your trip, such as:

  • Personal and passport data
  • Travel information
  • Contact information and the applicant's profession
  • Destination and accommodation of the first residence
  • Information about your health

Well ... do you understand why you need to apply when everything is now organized?
Authorization is generally approved within a very short space of time, but each case can be different, and if more checks are needed, you may have to wait up to 72 hours.
There can be different answers:

  • Authorization approved: you can leave, but this does not guarantee you the right to enter the United States as the ESTA is an authorization to board a plane or ship bound for the United States. It will then be up to the immigration officer at the airport of arrival to decide whether to give you permission to enter the country.
  • Authorization denied: Ouch! In this case you must go to the US Embassy or Consulate and apply for a B-1 visa for business stays or a B-2 visa for tourist stays.

How long is the ESTA authorization valid?

Now let's go one step further and once approved, your authorization will have one valid for 2 years or until your passport expires, if this occurs before two years.
During the 2 years of validity you can go to the States as many times as you want (and you can!), Provided you not to exceed 90 days of stay in the country for every single visit and that the purpose of the trip is always tourism or business.

When and how long before should it be done?

There is no ideal period to apply, let's say that the law of "the sooner you do it, the better" applies and as mentioned above, since detailed information is requested, start doing it as soon as you have everything planned and booked.
For the avoidance of doubt, it is better to do it no later than 72 hours before departure as in case of delay you have to go to the American Embassy or Consulate to apply for a non-immigrant visa, but the times get longer and you risk having to cancel or postpone the trip.

Who should take the ESTA?

This document must do this:

  • Anyone who wants to travel to the United States for tourism or business
  • all travelers who go to (or transit through) the United States by plane or ship and who are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP);
  • Children and infants traveling or transiting through the States must also be in possession of ESTA.

We remind all of you that you are leaving for America, that ESTA is not a visa and its goal is to allow the United States Government to examine all travelers intending to enter the country.
To find out more about the requisites necessary to re-enter the "Visa-free Travel" program and then use it, consult the website of the Italian Embassy. If you want general information on the program, you can refer to the website

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