When you apply for ESTA online, the status of your application will be sent to you digitally within 24 hours. An approved application status will come with a personal reference number, which is specific to your ESTA.
Many travellers choose to print out this email, or take a note of the reference number provided. A print-out is not necessary, but having the reference number to hand should it be needed can prove very useful.
Nevertheless, if you do lose this reference number, contact us and we can retreive it for you. Or, visit www.cbp.gov and enter your personal details to retrieve an individual application. This will allow you to check the status of your ESTA (whether it is still valid or not), and gives you the opportunity to update any personal details as well.
Important: if any of the key information that you included on your ESTA application is no longer valid, the ESTA itself is considered void. You will need to make any relevant changes to your ESTA for it to be valid again (such as addresses, name changes, marital status, etc.).
However, in order to enter the USA, you do not need to have a copy of your ESTA reference number with you, nor a print-out of the authorisation email. This is because a copy of this ESTA reference number is automatically made available to airlines when you check in to your flight. You should always check with your airline specifically what is required, but generally, once you have your approved ESTA sent to you, you do not need to do any more.
The main benefit of printing out your ESTA authorisation is so that you have it for reference when you come to reapply for the Visa Waiver Programme online. As the ESTA has a validity of 2 years, after this period you are no longer authorised to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Programme. Nevertheless, all travellers from Visa Waiver Programme countries are entitled to reapply for ESTA as many times as they require. Bear in mind, however, that should your ESTA not be approved, you will have to go down the traditional visa route.
Remember to apply for ESTA online before you book your transportation. This will allow you to take the necessary measures in applying for a visa in the unlikely event that your ESTA application is not approved.
Travelling to the United States? Do you have your pre-planning checklist in order? Visit our ESTA Guide for more information about obtaining your travel permit. We'd love to hear from you. Send us your comments or questions for travel assistance.