Explore the reasons why a new US ESTA authorization is required
International travel requires much planning, and preparations can be time consuming. Taking a trip to the United States requires obtaining a travel document, scheduling flights, booking hotel accommodations, navigating transportation, and a host of other arrangements. Fortunately, the ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) makes the process of obtaining the required travel document faster and more convenient than getting a traditional visa. However, ensuring that a travel authorization has been correctly issued, links to the corresponding passport, and is valid for the intended trip is crucial in preventing trip delays or cancelled plans. The process of confirming if a travel authorization is acceptable for an upcoming trip can be complex and sometimes confusing.
When to apply for ESTA before a trip
Instant authorization results, although previously common with the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), can no longer be expected. To avoid travel issues, applications should be submitted at least 72 hours before the journey. Most visa waiver travel authorizations receive approval status within 24 hours after the application is submitted. If there is concern that the travel document may not be issued, it is recommended to apply well in advance of the scheduled trip so arrangements for a visa can be made if the document is not approved.
Can an existing visa waiver authorization be renewed?
The ESTA visa authorization is valid for a maximum period of two years, or until the passport expires— whichever happens first. Renewing an existing document is not possible. Rather, a new application must be submitted. It is not necessary to wait for the current document to expire. Applying for a new travel document can occur while the existing authorization is still valid. This will automatically cancel the previous document.
I am returning to the US; do I need a new ESTA travel authorization?
If a travel document has already been used for a trip to the US, it is not necessary to apply for a new authorization for a return visit. The same authorization may be used again for multiple trips for the remainder of its validity. There is no required amount of time between trips. However, entry to the United States is always dependent upon approval from US Customs and Border Protection agents. It may be beneficial when going through customs to provide verification of no intent to remain in the US, such as proof of permanent employment or home ownership outside of the US.
Can an existing ESTA travel authorization be used with a new passport?
The ESTA visa waiver links to a biometric passport through the passport’s data chip. Therefore, the travel authorization may only electronically link to one passport. When an individual gets a new passport, or the passport linked with the travel document expires, the travel authorization automatically expires. Anytime a traveler gets a new passport, a new visa waiver document must be issued to link with the new passport for successful entry to the United States.
Applying for ESTA if the passport expires soon
If an older passport will be expiring soon, some travelers prefer to get a new passport, and then apply for the VWP once this passport is valid and in-hand. In this way, the new travel authorization’s validity will last the maximum two years. It is not possible to link a travel document with a temporary paper passport or a passport without a data chip.
There are circumstances when a traveler must enter the US soon and does not have sufficient time to apply for and receive the new passport and travel document before the trip. While it is not possible to travel internationally with an expired passport, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) allows travelers from most visa waiver approved countries to enter the US as long as the planned departure occurs while the passport is still valid. It is acceptable to apply for visa-free travel if the passport is valid for the trip duration.
My existing ESTA expires while in the US
While the passport must be valid for the entire US trip, it is acceptable for the visa waiver authorization to expire while the traveler is still in the US. The travel authorization document is only required to be valid for entry to the US.
The visa waiver document has an error, how can it be corrected?
It is important to review the information on a visa waiver document to confirm the information is correct. It is not possible to correct the critical information on an already authorized travel document. If there is an error in this data, then a new document must be issued. The critical information includes:
Some data on a visa waiver document may be modified and corrected without issuing a new ESTA application including the email address of the applicant and the US destination address.
If my data has changed should I apply for a new travel document?
Consider the following to determine if a new travel document is required:
How to correct a visa waiver document not authorized
There are three possible responses to a visa waiver application:
When an application is not authorized for travel, this status is very unlikely to change if a new application is submitted. A US Embassy or Consulate should be contacted to see if there is a resolvable issue, or to begin the visa application process for entry to the US.
More about the visa waiver program
Ready to learn more about visa-free travel to the United States? Find out the passport requirements, acceptable travel purposes, and get the answers to most common visa waiver program questions at the ESTA Online Learning Center.