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An ESTA for the United States is valid for how long?

Learn the exact duration of validity for a United States ESTA and for how long you can use it to complete different visits and read some explanations relating to specific conditions and cases.

An ESTA authorisation represents an ‘Electronic System of Travel Authorisation’ that authorises the holder to visit the United States, it offers a simple and rapid alternative to a visa for citizens of certain countries of which the projected visit must comply with specific conditions. However what is also interesting about this electronic travel authorisation is that it also enables you to visit the United States numerous times without needing to reapply each time. This is due to the validity period that we will examine here in detail. In this article we will explain what is the actual period of validity of your ESTA, for how long you can actually visit the United States using this authorisation, how to find out the expiry date of your ESTA, as well as other details relating to its validity.

 

The length of the validity period of an ESTA to travel to the United States:

We shall now launch directly into the subject by detailing the length of the validity period of an ESTA authorisation. Once you have obtained this travel authorisation it will in fact be valid for a period of two years. 

The ESTA is a system that was created in 2009 and the validity period was fixed at 2 years by the Department of Homeland Security for the United States. It is therefore the American government that decided to enable visitors that obtain this travel authorisation to use it to visit the country during this two year period. Of course, the length of this validity period may be changed in the future but it is still currently fixed at two years.

So what does this actually mean? This validity period starts the day you are notified of the acceptance of your ESTA application and ends two years later. During this period you can therefore visit the United States as often as you wish as long as you respect the conditions of this scheme, notably concerning the length and reason for your visit each time, details of which will follow later. For these visits you will therefore not be required to apply for an ESTA each time and can simply reuse the ESTA authorisation you have been granted.

In this article we will also examine why, if this is possible, it is also imperative that your major personal information, and therefore your personal situation, does not change. Basically, the reasons why your ESTA was originally granted should still be valid and the American authorities are perfectly within their rights to refuse you entry to American territory if a major change has occurred without you notifying them by modifying or renewing your travel authorisation as necessary.

 

For which types of visit can you reuse your ESTA after the end of its validity period?

Let us now examine the types of visit you can make to the USA using your current ESTA authorisation if it is still valid.

Firstly it should be remembered that an ESTA authorisation only authorises you to visit the USA for relatively short periods of time.  In fact, the length of stay authorised by the ESTA system is of course not two years, it should not be confused with the validity period of this travel authorisation. An ESTA authorisation permits you to stay in the United States for a period of up to 90 days at a time, or three months. If you plan to stay for longer than this on American territory then you should apply for a visa, even if your ESTA is still valid.

It should be noted here that the reason for your visit to the USA is equally important and independent of the length of your stay. In fact, the ESTA authorisation was primarily created for those who wish to visit the USA for touristic purposes, for business reasons when employed by a company in your home country, or to visit friends and family.

You can therefore not use your valid ESTA to visit the USA for working, preparing a long term residency or to follow studies. For these types of visits you will need to apply for a visa specific to your situation.

To conclude, to be able to reuse your ESTA during its validity period, your planned visits to the United States must follow the same conditions as the initial visit for which you applied.

It should be noted here that it is also possible to use your ESTA during its validity period for visits to countries other than the United States that require a stopover or transit through an American airport. In fact, a transit or stopover on American territory is considered as a visit under American law, however long it is for and even if you do not leave your means of transport. You therefore need to possess an ESTA authorisation to complete your travel successfully. The good news is that an ESTA works perfectly in both these cases, even if you originally applied to spend some time in the USA. In the same way, an ESTA that was originally applied for to complete a stopover or transit through an American airport can later be used for a longer visit to the USA.  Regarding transits or stopovers for the outgoing and return dates of your travel, your ESTA of course needs to be valid for both these dates, not just the outgoing flights.

 

An ESTA authorisation can be considered as no longer valid even if it has not reached its expiry date: 

As you now know from the explanations we have just given, an ESTA travel authorisation is valid for a period of two years following the day it was granted and can therefore be used for numerous visits, stopovers or transits through and to the United States during this time period. However for your ESTA to be considered as valid by the American immigration authorities it is also important that the major information originally given has not changed and your personal situation remains the same as when you completed your initial application.

This particularity is in fact extremely logical as your ESTA is granted uniquely on the basis of the information provided on the application form when you initially apply. It is therefore possible that following any change in the information given this authorisation may be considered as no longer valid.

Of course, this does not concern all the information given in your application form, just the most important. The most obvious example of a modification resulting in the end of the ESTA validity before its expiry date is of course a change in the associated passport number. You are probably aware that an ESTA electronic travel authorisation is directly linked to a passport so this is why, when you complete an ESTA application online, you need to enter a passport number. An ESTA authorisation itself cannot be confirmed by the border officials and travel authorities, it is checked through scanning the associated passport. Therefore if you need to change your passport during the ESTA two year validity period then, whatever its expiry date, or if it is stolen or lost, then your new passport bearing a different number will of course no longer be associated with your ESTA and the latter will become obsolete. It is unfortunately not possible to transfer an ESTA from one passport to another. You will therefore need to apply for a new ESTA, completing the application procedure from the beginning again.     

Other important information given on your original application should be identical when you travel in the future. This particularly concerns information relating to your identity such as your first and last names. If you change any of this information during the two year validity period of your ESTA then you will also need to amend this information on your ESTA to reflect the modification. You should also check that the information relating to your identity on your passport is the same as that on your ESTA travel authorisation. This situation could arise following a marriage or a divorce for example. 

In the same way, if you have moved during your ESTA validity period then you are required to advise the authorities responsible for your entry onto American territory. If your postal address is not the same as that indicated on your ESTA then you may find that you are refused entry into American territory. In these two cases you will need to reapply for a new ESTA online, starting the procedure from the beginning and paying the associated costs and fees again.

Although your personal information should of course remain correct at the time of your new visit to the United States, it is also necessary that all the answers given to the questions on the ESTA application form are still correct as well. These questions are asked to ascertain if your situation relating to the law, your health and even morality are in accordance with American laws relating to your entry onto American territory. If this information has changed then you will of course have to submit a new application to the American authorities through the completion of the online application form and payment of the associated costs and fees. To be sure that the information given in your initial ESTA application is still correct you will need to search your memory or ideally check the printed copy of your completed application form if you have one.  

However some less important information that features on your ESTA can be modified online without needing to complete an entirely new application. This notably concerns a change in your email address and of course a change in the name of the airline company with which you will travel, or the address you will stay at in the USA.

We would like to draw your attention here to the fact that when you renew your ESTA due to invalidity for one of the reasons such as those explained above but before its expiry date it is not guaranteed that your application will conclude with an approval, you may find that your new application for an ESTA is refused. In the same way you will lose the time left on your current ESTA when you are granted a new one, an ESTA is granted for a two year validity period starting from its issue date.

 

How to learn the expiry date of your current ESTA:

Maybe you are planning to reuse your ESTA for an upcoming visit to the United States and wish to know if your previous travel authorisation is still valid to avoid completing the procedure again as well as paying the costs and fees associated.

There are several simple methods to do this.  You can for example find the confirmation email that was sent to you following your initial application. If you have archived it you should find it fairly easily but if this is not the case then complete a search in your inbox using keywords. Maybe you printed a copy of this email, this is not absolutely necessary but can prove very useful for keeping track of the validity period of your ESTA.  

It should be noted here that certain websites offering an ESTA authorisation application service also offer you the option to receive a paper version of this important travel authorisation delivered through the post. You therefore have the opportunity to receive a paper document to keep and thereby ensure you are always able to easily check the validity of your ESTA.

If you have not printed or saved your ESTA authorisation then you can still learn the status of your travel authorisation online by visiting the official ESTA website. This is notably possible using your file or reference number, if you have kept it noted, or using other personal information such as your passport number, or your first and last names.

 

How do you renew an ESTA authorisation that is approaching its expiry date?

Whether your ESTA has come to the end of its two year validity period or some important personal information in your application has changed you may wish to learn more about how to renew your travel authorisation.

Contrary to certain official documents and procedures that you may already be familiar with, the ESTA system was not designed for automatic renewal. You will therefore be required to complete this procedure yourself.

It is therefore necessary to once again visit a website such as the one we recommend and complete the application form as you did with your original application. In fact, this procedure is not a simple update but consists of a completely new application right from the beginning.

Nothing and no-one requires you to renew your ESTA when it reaches its expiry date. As we actually explained earlier, this electronic travel authorisation document for the United States is valid for a two year period as from its initial date. Therefore, if you do not plan to visit the United States on numerous occasions or your visiting plans include stopovers or transits in the near future then it is best to wait until you really need this travel authorisation before you apply. In this way you can fully benefit from its validity period. For the same reason it is important to check that your passport is not close to its expiry date at the time you decide to renew your ESTA. If your passport expires before the end of the two year validity period of your ESTA then the latter will no longer be valid and will require renewal. When possible renew your passport first and then your ESTA which will therefore bear the number of your new passport.  

Still concerning the renewal of your ESTA travel authorisation following its expiry, certain visitors ask if it is necessary to pay the associated costs and fees again that were paid on the initial application.

Unfortunately the response to this question is a resounding ‘yes’! You will need to repay the totality of these fees and costs with no possibility of a discount or special reduction due to a renewal. The reason for this decision is easy to understand. It is important to remember that a renewal of your ESTA is in fact a repetition of the entire application procedure with a new submission of the whole application form. For the American authorities responsible for examining the applications and responding to them this therefore constitutes the same amount of work and time as an entirely new initial application and it is therefore logical that the fees and costs are identical to those you paid for your initial application.

The good news is that certain websites offer the opportunity for a refund of these costs and fees if your new ESTA application concludes with a refusal. You therefore risk nothing financially if you create a new application following a change in major information on your file that does not guarantee that you will receive an approval to your ESTA application.

 

Is it necessary for your ESTA to be valid for the entirety of your visit to the United States:

To conclude this article we will now examine a pertinent question that is asked by many visitors to the USA that hold an ESTA that is close to its expiry date. So what exactly does the American law state concerning the validity period of an ESTA relating to a visit to the USA?

The good news is that in reality, the validity of your ESTA is particularly important for your entry date onto American territory. It is therefore absolutely necessary that this authorisation is valid for your departure date.  Even if your visit to the USA is for the maximum allowed period of 90 days you are not required to have an ESTA authorisation that covers the entire three month period, it only needs to be valid at the moment you enter the United States. You therefore do not need to renew your authorisation during your visit if it expires during your visit and will not encounter any problems for your return to Europe.

In all cases it is necessary here to cover the particular cases of stopovers and transits through the United States. As we briefly mentioned earlier, these stopovers and transits are considered as visits in themselves, even if you do not step off your airplane. Therefore the date of your stopover or transit will always be considered as your entry date onto American territory. This is why in this particular case, and contrary to a normal visit to the USA, your ESTA authorisation must cover both your outgoing and return flight dates.  If this is not the case then you can reapply for your ESTA before your departure date or during your visit to a different country other than the United States as long as you have access to the internet.

To conclude it should be noted that although your ESTA is not required to cover the entirety of your visit to the United States this is not the same for your other official travel documents. For example your passport must be valid for the entirety of your visit to American territory. If your passport is approaching its expiry date then it is best to renew it before your visit.