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The new ESTA online form

For new applications or renewals

If I have already obtained an ESTA permit, do I apply for an updated travel document with the new online form?

No, you do not have to reapply. If you are a holder of a valid ESTA rest assured that you can use it to travel to the US even if new questions are introduced to the form. The ESTA application was expanded with immediate effect at the beginning of November 2014. The Electronic System for Travel Authorization now asks for additional background information (in English) such as:

  • – Other Names/Aliases
  • – Other Citizenships
  • – Parents name(s)
  • – National Identification Number (if applicable)
  • – U.S. Contact information (email, phone, points of contact)
  • – Employment information (if applicable)
  • – City of Birth

You must also answer the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes and past history of visa revocation or deportation, among others. The 9 yes-or-no eligibility questions are intended to determine if prospective travelers pose a risk due to their particular health situation, criminal or drug-related activity as well as ties and travel to a number of countries in Africa and the Middle East, such as Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011. Answering ‘yes’ to any one of these questions is very likely to disqualify you from the VWP program, which does not mean you don’t qualify for a visa and a visit to the US. On the other hand, providing incorrect information on your application is sure to deny you entry into the country as ESTA crosschecks all details across multiple international databases.

In fact, it is not uncommon for new fields to be added to the form in the attempt to make international travel more secure by improving automated assessment and supplying it with additional detail.

More recently the ESTA online application has added a new, optional question, which asks for your social media identifiers. Many travelers have expressed a concern in sharing their private profiles and the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) authorities have assured that choosing to answer or not will not influence the status of the application. Foreigners who do not supply their social media accounts in the application will not be prohibited from traveling to the USA.

The new field looks as follows:

‘Please enter information associated with your online presence—Provider/ Platform—Social media identifier.’

This should not complicate the application process as if you choose to answer, you will also be presented with a drop-down menu of social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and a number of others as well as a field to enter your username.

Once again, if you obtained your approved ESTA before this new field was introduced you are free to use it within the two-year period of its validity. If you are planning a trip to the US and need to apply for an ESTA for the first time, remember that answering the question is not mandatory and that it was included in the effort to make international travel safer in the ever-changing security climate.