If you want to go on a holiday or citytrip to the United States, you need an ESTA visa to do so. It is mandatory for British travellers to apply for such a document.
An ESTA visa is not a regular visa, but a digital travel authorization with which the US government states that the traveller is authorised to enter the country. Such a travel authorisation is not just required if you want to stay in the USA, but also if you are on a transit. When applying for the ESTA visa, the applicant is asked to provide the contact information of a point of contact and a first staying place. We receive a large number of questions about these two things.
The importance of an ESTA
All British travellers headed for the United States are required to possess a valid visa. Although the ESTA visa is not a regular type of visa, it is still a valid travel authorisation issued by the United States government.
In many case, an ESTA suffices to travel to the USA. The U.S. Government has very strict checks. A valid travel authorisation is asked for at multiple points. Not just on arrival in the United States, but also when boarding your plane. This means you already need to have applied for and received a valid ESTA, and present it when asked for. Airlines are required to always ask for it. When the traveller cannot present a valid travel authorisation, they cannot board the plane.
If an airline still takes a traveller along without an ESTA visa, they risk hefty fines. That us why it is important to arrange this travel authorisation as early as possible. Even (underage) children are required to possess their own travel authorisation and passport.
Grand Canyon, USA. One of the most popular destinations for holidays in the USA.
ESTA is different from a visa
In the past, travellers headed for the USA were forced to apply for a US visa. This visa could only be acquired at the US embassy. To make it more appealing to travel to the United States, the process was simplified. Since a few years, it is possible to make a digital application. Technical speaking, an ESTA visa is not a regular visa, but a digital travel authorisation. This is enough for travellers that are travelling to the USA on a holiday. Travellers that want to work in the USA need to apply for a different type of visa at the US consulate.
When applying for the ESTA visa you are asked for several kinds of information. It is possible to apply for an ESTA for multiple travellers at once. However, the price charged per person remains the same. It is important that all information, such as the contact information, is written down correctly. When applying, you are asked for the date of arrival, whether it concerns an urgent delivery or whether the applicant is simply passing through on transit to another country.
Start ESTA application
Specify point of contact/contact person ESTA visa
There are also a number of other parts that need to be completed. These include the fields “overnight stay” and “point of contact/contact person”. These parts are not always mandatory. We still receive a large number of questions about these fields. For example: you are travelling to the United States and are going to various cities to see all the various sights. In that case, you might not have a contact person.
The point of contact always needs to be American. A point of contact can be a friend, family or colleague. But if you do not have a point of contact (yet), this is not a problem. Fill in the details of the first overnight stay, such as the hotel where you will be spending the first night in the USA. In other cases, it is possible to fill in UNKNOWN. These kinds of applications are generally approved as normal.
First overnight stay
It is important to provide a first overnight stay. By showing the US government that the trip has been prepared for in advance and that an overnight stay has already been established for the first day, the chance that the ESTA visa is approved is larger. This does not mean that if a traveller does not have an overnight stay that the application is automatically rejected. If you have an overnight stay in the USA, fill it in.
No overnight stay? Leave the fields empty.
Emergency contact ESTA
Finally, it is necessary to provide an emergency contact. These fields cannot be left empty during the application. This contact person does not need to be American. The contact person is meant to be a point of contact in case of an incident concerning the traveller(s). It does not matter if the contact person lives in the USA or not. It is permitted to signify a person outside of the USA, such as a friend, family member or colleague.
Take note: this news article about the ESTA for the USA is more than one year old. It might contain outdated information and advice, and no rights can therefore be derived from this article. Are you going on a trip soon and do you wish to do know what rules currently apply? Read all about the up-to-date information about the ESTA for the USA.