News report | | 28-07-2020 | ±4 minutes reading time

Oftentimes, the ESTA visa does not have a national identification number on it, or the field instead says “UNKNOWN”. In this article, you can read whether this poses a problem in your case.

What does “National Identification Number” refer to?

As soon as the application for an ESTA visa is approved by the immigration service, a document is generated for confirmation. It states whether the application was approved, and it also contains all of the information filled out in the ESTA application form. This document also contains the fields “National Identification Number” and “Personal Identification Number”.

What number this refers to exactly depends on the nationality of the traveller. In most cases, both numbers do not need to be filled in, just one or even none at all. Travellers with UK or EU nationality do not need to fill in anything, or can write down “UNKNOWN”.

Does my ESTA need to have a personal identification number?

The application form for the ESTA visa automatically leaves out the request for a personal identification number for all travellers with a European nationality, as they do not possess this number. Filling it in is both not possible and unnecessary. The header “Personal Identification Number” will still appear on the confirmation of the granting of the ESTA, but no number will be listed.

Does my ESTA need to have a national identification number?

That depends on which nationality you have. Travellers with the following nationality generally do have a national identification number:

  • Netherlands (burgerservicenummer, BSN)
  • Belgium (Rijksregisternummer)
  • Luxembourg (TIN)
  • Spain (DNI of NIF)
  • Greece
  • Czech Republic

Travellers with any of the following nationalities do not have a number designated as a national identification number by the American immigration service:

  • Germany
  • France
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Austria
  • Poland
  • United Kingdom
  • Switzerland

Travellers that do not have a national identification number because of their nationality oftentimes do have a different number. For example, an NIR, INSEE, PPSN, fiscal number or the document number of a passport or identification document. However, these numbers are not what a national identification number or a personal identification number refer to. These numbers therefore do not need to be filled when applying for an ESTA, and also do not need to appear on the confirmation of approval. Do they still appear there? Then this generally will not lead to any problems.

Exceptional cases

There are a few exceptions to the overview above. Some travellers with the Dutch, Belgian, Luxembourg or Spanish nationality never received a national identification number. This could be because they never lived and/or worked in the country they hold the nationality of. This also applies to people that picked up their passport at an embassy abroad, which sometimes are unable to generate a national identification number. Travellers that do not have this number do not need to fill it in when applying for an ESTA. This generally does not lead to any problems during the trip to the USA.

My ESTA has “UNKNOWN” on it, is that a problem?

If no national identification number was filled in on the application form for the ESTA, the confirmation of approval will automatically say “UNKNOWN”. This is normal and does not lead to any problems. In some cases, the traveller has to fill in “UNKNOWN” themselves when applying for an ESTA, for example with the exceptional cases mentioned above.

Contradictory information on the internet

When searching online which numbers a “National Identification Number” refers to, and whether or not they have to be filled in when applying for an ESTA, you will come across a lot of conflicting information. For example, it is often claimed that Germans have to fill in the document number of their identity card as a national identification number. However, this is not the case, as travellers without an identity card can just as easily apply for an ESTA. Only a passport is required for that.

This contradictory information is a result of many attempts by travellers to fill in different types of numbers and experiment with them to see if they can use them to enter the USA. In practice, the immigration service almost always accepts the filled in number, even if a different number is filled in than the one officially asked for. As a result, many travellers have drawn incorrect conclusions from that and shared them online.

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.