ESTA US Travel: Understanding the two-year validity

Visit Vermont with ESTA

Know the variables that determine how long an ESTA is valid for travel

Travel with the Visa Waiver Programme (VWP) is a convenient option for UK citizens planning a trip to the United States. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, the ESTA is an electronic visa waiver with a streamlined application process, fast approval, and convenient 2-year validity. It is important to understand the parameters of travel under the VWP and the variables that determine the visa waiver’s validity and eligibility for entry to the US. Travellers benefit by knowing how to correctly utilise this travel authorisation, how to confirm the ESTA validity, and any the factors that change a visa-free travel document’s approval status. 

Tapping a Sugar Maple tree for syrup in Vermont

Understanding the difference between the allowed US length of stay and the travel document validity period

From the date that an application is approved for travel, the document will remain valid for a maximum of two years. Entry to the United States is permitted at any time during this validity period. This convenience allows individuals planning travel from the UK to submit the online application before the trip details are known, ensuring sufficient time to receive approval status prior to travel.

While the US trip may begin at any time while the document is valid, the total time for a single trip has a 90-day limit. Multiple 90-day or less trips may be taken throughout the validity of the document. There is no specific time required between trips. Entry to the US is ultimately granted by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents that review traveler’s information upon arrival in the United States. Travelers may be asked to verify that the travel purposes are within the acceptable VWP guidelines during any subsequent trips, to ensure there is no intent to remain or seek employment in the US. Please click here to review acceptable trips purposes with the visa-free travel document.  

Reasons why a visa waiver authorisation may expire in less than two years

The primary reason why the validity period for a visa waiver authorisation is less than two years is because the associated passport will expire in less than two years. The Electronic System for Travel Authorisation documemt may only link to one passport. If the passport expires sooner than two years, the corresponding document is also going to expire. 
Several other less common reasons exist that may cause the visa waiver to expire in less than two years—and expire before the date on the authorisation. Some reasons for early document expiration include:

  •  Submitting a new document request with the same passport information 
  •  Attempting to enter the US during a travel suspension that the individual is not exempt from
  •  Overstaying the 90-day limit 
  •  A change of status to the answers of any security questions on the application. For example, if the individual was arrested for a serious crime or travelled to a restricted country
  •  Reporting the corresponding passport as stolen or lost

How to confirm the validity of your ESTA

As outlined in the previous section, it is possible that although a printed authorisation or PDF still appears valid, it may have already expired. It is strongly recommended that that travellers confirm the validity of their document shortly before taking a trip. For individuals that have applied at, confirming a document’s validity is quick and simple. Travellers may contact us to confirm a document’s validity any day of the week by the following methods:

  •  Complete our online Quick Contact and ESTA Assistance Form on our Support Page. An email reply will be sent within 24 hours
  •  Send an email to i[email protected]. An email reply will be sent within 24 hours
  •  Click the chat button in the bottom right corner of the webpage for an immediate response

To expedite confirmation of a document’s status, provide as much of the following information as possible in the correspondence request:

  •  16-digit authorisation number
  •  Application invoice number
  •  Applicant’s name as entered on the application
  •  Passport number, issuing country, issuance and expiration date
  •  Applicant date of birth

Can a valid travel authorisation be used if the information on the document has changed?

Whether or not a valid travel approval is acceptable for use depends on what information specifially has changed. Information such as the employment data, US contact, US destination address, and home address if still within the same country are non-mandatory information and do not require updating on an existing approval. Critical information that must be correct on a travel authorisation includes:

  •  Individual’s name and gender
  •  All passport information (passport number, issuing country, issuing and expiration dates)
  •  The “Yes” or “No” response for all application security questions

If any of the critical information has changed, the ESTA document is no longer acceptable for travel. A new application request must be submitted online with the correct information.

Can a visa-free travel authorisation be renewed, or the expiration date extended?

It is not possible to renew or extend the validity of an existing electronic travel document. The 16-digit authorisation number is valid a maximum of two years. After the document expires, it will be necessary to submit a new application for travel to the US. Fortunately, completing the online form can happen at the applicant’s convenience. If trip dates are planned for shortly after an existing document will expire, a new travel request may be submitted while the current document is still valid to ensure sufficient time to receive the new approval document. Submitting a new request with the same passport information as a previous authorisation will result in automatic expiration of the previous document thereby ensuring that only one document exists per passport.

Can a traveler stay in the United States after their travel authorisation has expired?

The travel authorisation is required specifically for entry to the United States. It is not necessary to have a valid visa waiver travel authorisation to exit the US. Therefore, it is acceptable for the travel document to expire while the traveller is still present in the United States. Even if the travel document expires, the total time in the US must still be within the 90-day limit. Additionally, the passport must remain valid for the duration of the trip.

UK citizens can learn more about visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Programme to the United States, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Visit our Complete ESTA Guide here. . Are you wondering if a new ESTA authorisation is needed for an upcoming trip? Find out this important information from our blog article, Do I need a new ESTA for visa-free USA travel? 



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.

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