It is only allowed to make a transfer in the USA with a valid ESTA, visa, or US or Canadian passport. When you check in for your flight to the USA, an inspection will be conducted to verify that you have a valid travel authorisation.
ESTA USA: easier than obtaining a visa
It is easier to apply for an ESTA than a visa. The cost of an ESTA is also a lot lower. Applying for a visa requires making an appointment at a consulate or embassy of the United States, whereas the application process for an ESTA is simple, quick and take place entirely online. An ESTA is therefore the most logical choice for anyone travelling to the United States for a transfer.
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Multiple transfers with one ESTA
The validity period of an ESTA is 2 years. During this validity period, the ESTA can be used multiple times for a transfer in the USA. You will have to fill in an arrival date in the application form, but it is no problem if this date changes after your application is approved. As long as the ESTA is valid, it can be used to travel to the USA. It does not matter whether you use this travel authorisation for a transfer in the United States or for another travel purpose authorised by the ESTA. Please note that the validity of the ESTA may expire earlier in certain cases, for example if the passport used to submit the ESTA application expires before the end of the 2-year validity period. In this case, you will have to apply for a new ESTA for your next trip to the United States.
Many travellers use an ESTA for a transfer in the United States of America
ESTA for a transfer or other travel purposes
The application form will ask if you are travelling to the United States for a transit only. If the answer to this question is yes, you do not have to provide the address of your accommodation in the USA. Nevertheless, if approved, the travel authorisation that you receive will be exactly the same as if you had indicated that you were travelling to the United States for a holiday, for example. Even with an ESTA specifically obtained for a transit, you are allowed to stay in the United States of America for up to 90 consecutive days. However, each trip must meet the requirements that are set for travelling with an ESTA.
Can I leave the airport during my transfer?
Based on the information above, you may conclude that, since the ESTA is valid for a stay of up to 90 days, travellers holding an ESTA USA are allowed to leave the airport while making a transfer in the United States. However, be aware that your airline and the airport where you are landing may set restrictions on leaving the airport during the transfer. Check with the airline before departure to find out if you are allowed to leave the airport during your transfer.
ESTA also required to transit through the USA
The difference between a transfer and a transit can be confusing for some. During a transfer, travellers leave the plane that brought them to the US to continue their journey on another plane. During a transit, on the other hand, passengers leave the aircraft (landed to refuel, for example) and then re-board the same aircraft to continue their journey to their final destination. It is mandatory to have an ESTA USA, a visa or a US or Canadian passport in order to make a transfer or a transit.
e-Visa.ie is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.ie acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.ie, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as € 30,55 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.