Should you apply for an ESTA or a visa to visit New York?

Read information and details on the procedures to follow to visit New York using an ESTA or visa and the differences between these travel authorisations to travel to the United States.

Maybe you are planning a visit to New York and wish to learn more about the travel documents necessary, more precisely if you require an ESTA or visa for your visit. In this article we will explain the differences between these two types of travel authorisation and how to obtain each of them including details on the application procedures. But first, let us look at if it is truly necessary to hold a travel authorisation to visit New York.


Is a travel authorisation obligatory to travel to New York?

If you travel frequently to other European countries maybe you think that a visit to New York only requires a passport in terms of official documents. But this is in fact not the case. The American government is in fact very strict relating to entry onto American territory and you can therefore not visit New York without previously obtaining an official travel authorisation, even if you plan to visit for just a few days or your holidays.

There are currently two types of travel authorisation that enable you to visit the USA; the Visa and the ESTA. In this article we will explain the differences between these two travel authorisations that have distinctly different application procedures and are suitable for different types of visitors.

In all cases, without one of these travel authorisations you cannot travel to the United States. Your visa or ESTA will in fact be checked at the time of boarding and again when you enter the United States.

It is also important to note that all visitors need a travel authorisation, including children and babies, even if they are accompanied by their parents. It should also be noted that even if you travel to a different final destination but need to transit or make a stopover through an American airport you will still need this travel authorisation in the same way as if you actually stayed in this country.


Who can use the ESTA administrative procedure to visit New York?

As explained earlier, the application procedure for an ESTA electronic travel authorisation offers numerous advantages for visitors compared with the traditional visa application. But who can really benefit from this visa exception? The ESTA system is applicable for a certain category of visitors that need to fulfil specific conditions as follows: 

  • Nationality and residence: To benefit from an ESTA and thereby not require a visa to visit New York, it is first necessary that you are a resident of one of the 22 member countries of this system, such as the United Kingdom. This means that you need to reside there permanently. Visitors from other countries will need to complete an application for a visa.
  • The length of your visit: The ESTA electronic travel authorisation is only applicable for short visits of less than 90 days or three months on American territory. Longer visits will require you to apply for a specific visa.
  • The reason for your visit: An ESTA enables you to visit New York for different reasons such as, of course, tourism, visiting family or friends or even for business reasons. However it does not replace the visa if you plan to work in America or follow studies there.
  • Holding a passport: As we explained earlier, your ESTA authorisation is linked electronically to your passport. It is therefore essential that you hold an electronic or biometric passport that is valid when you apply for your ESTA authorisation as well as for the entirety of your planned visit, including your return.

If you fulfil all the conditions detailed above then you can apply online for your ESTA now. It should be noted that people wishing to visit New York, or somewhere else in the United States, absolutely need to obtain an ESTA, or a classic visa, including children. 

Once obtained, your ESTA authorisation will be valid for two years and can be used for numerous visits to New York or elsewhere in the United States during this time.


How to complete the ESTA administrative procedure to visit New York?

To conclude here is some advice to ensure your administrative preparation regarding the ESTA runs smoothly for your visit to New York.

Firstly, even though the ESTA is processed within a maximum of 72 hours, we still recommend that you complete this procedure a few weeks before your departure date for New York in order to avoid any complications such as a refusal which would necessitate a new application or a visa application.

Before starting to complete the online application form on our website, ensure you have your passport number close to hand as well as that for anyone else who is accompanying you on your visit if you plan a group visit. You should of course be able to respond to all the questions for each person accompanying you. You will also need your credit or debit card or access to your paypal account to be able to complete payment when submitting your application.

You can now start to complete the ESTA application form online and allow yourself to be guided step by step through the different stages. Take care not to omit any questions and reply in a clear and honest manner to the questions on the questionnaire. Verify the email address that you give as the response to your application will be sent to the same email address.

Once the questionnaire has been completed you may verify the information given before submitting your application and paying the costs and fees online. On our website you will find valuable and full assistance in case you encounter difficulties in responding to the questions asked.

Once your ESTA application has been approved, you have no further administrative procedures to complete and you can calmly continue with preparations for your visit to New York. Your ESTA will be automatically electronically or digitally linked to your passport. 


When to request an ESTA to visit New York?

The ESTA, or Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, is a new travel authorisation implemented by the American authorities since 2009. In certain specific cases it replaces the well-known traditional visa with its long and costly procedure. To benefit from this visa exemption program and use the ESTA procedure you will need to fulfil the following conditions:

  • Visit New York for a period of less than 90 days or transit by another city.
  • Possess a valid biometric or electronic passport that will be used for your visit.
  • Be a citizen of one of the member countries of this system such as the United Kingdom or Ireland.

If you fulfil these conditions it is recommended that you complete your ESTA application a minimum of 72 hours before your departure but preferably 2 – 3 weeks beforehand.


How to obtain the ESTA paper for travelling to the United States?

To obtain the ESTA paper, you basically need to fulfil the conditions stated above and have an internet connection. Using a website such as ours you can access the ESTA application form in several languages. Important! Before completing this application form ensure you have your passport close to hand and the number will be required. The same is true for other travellers accompanying you as you will be required to complete an application form for each individual person.

Once you have completed truthfully and completely this questionnaire, you should verify it carefully and modify any mistakes. It is extremely important to check it before submitting your application. If everything is correct, submit your application and complete the application fee payment as requested (€59 on our partner's website). This payment can be made by credit card to ensure a rapid processing of your application.


When do I receive the ESTA paper?

In actual fact, your ESTA authorisation will not be in the form of a paper document. You will simply receive a response to your application by email, within 72 hours after your application submission. The American authorities will be informed of the decision by digital means, as well as the company you will travel with.

Although it is therefore not obligatory that you print your ESTA, we do recommend you do so and keep it in a safe place as you will need your reference number for future visits to New York or elsewhere in the United States.


Is an ESTA required for a transit through New York?

The state of New York does not possess only one but rather two international airports through which numerous flights transit or stopover with their final destination as another country. Passengers who transit by New York often wonder if the ESTA authorisation is therefore required in this case.

In fact, even if you are not actually staying in New York, the simple fact of landing on American territory, even for just an hour or two, requires this travel authorisation. This is also the case for transits, even those that are short and require you to stay within the airport, as well as longer stopovers that allow you the time to visit the area a little.

To apply for an ESTA for a transit or stopover in New York you will need to follow the same procedure as with an authorisation application for a stay in the country. You should complete the application form that is available on our website for which you will need your valid passport number and credit card, the latter is to pay the transfer and processing costs and fees of your ESTA application. Following the submission of your application you will receive a response within 72 hours and will have nothing further to do after then as your ESTA travel authorisation will be automatically linked to your passport number. To obtain this authorisation you will of course need to fulfil certain conditions detailed above and, in particular, possess an electronic or biometric passport that is valid at the time of your application and during your proposed visit that enables it to be read electronically by a machine. You will also need to hold the nationality of one of the member countries of this program.

If you have the opportunity to take a fairly long stopover in New York, don’t hesitate to seize the opportunity for a short trip to Manhattan to visit some of the better known tourist spots there.

This website is not affiliated to the American government, you have the possibility of completing the procedure without supplementary fees on the official website.