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Applying for ESTA as a group or a family

For those planning to apply for ESTA as a group or a family

The official ESTA application website of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) accepts ESTA applications for not only individual traveler but also groups and families traveling together. On this page, how to apply for ESTA as a group is described, along with answers to frequently asked questions regarding ESTA application as a group. Each of the nine sections below contains very important information. Please make sure to check the details and methods below and identify any points that require caution, to ensure that all members of your family or group can travel safely and smoothly.

For those planning to apply for ESTA as a group or a family

1. How should a family or a group apply for ESTA?

To apply for ESTA as a family or a group, first choose one representative member to serve as the contact for the application. A representative may apply for ESTA for up to 50 members of a group at once. There is no requirement for ESTA application procedures to be completed by the applicant him or herself. The application may be submitted by a representative of the family or the group, or by an agent. Travelers must be registered individually, and the passport information for all travelers covered by the application is needed when applying for ESTA. When applying as a “Group of Applications,” the representative should first collect the passport information for all members of the group before beginning the application process.

2. Is submitting an ESTA group application at the same day/time for all group members a must?

An application for a group must be submitted at the same time for all members of the group. However, all the members of the group do not need to travel to the same destination or on the same itinerary. Note that you cannot apply as a “Group of Applications” in a case in which, for example, one member of a family of four (the group representative) applies first and then an application for the other three members is submitted at a later date.

Starting a “Group of Applications”

  1. Enter the name, date of birth, email address, and other information for the representative of the family or group.
  2. An email in English will be delivered after the authorization decision. Turn off any SPAM filters to make sure that you will receive this email.
  3. Next, enter accurate travel information for each member of the group, including the representative. After entries are complete for the first member (the representative), click on “Add a new applicant” and then enter the information for the second traveler (a member of your family or group). Even when submitting a “Group of Applications,” you must enter the correct answers to all questions for every group member.
Starting a Group of Applications

3. What should the family or group representative do before traveling?

Enter information with care, because the information entered when applying for ESTA must match the information shown on the traveler’s passport perfectly. The boarding pass will be issued after checking whether the ESTA application process has been completed correctly or not, based on the information shown on the traveler’s passport. If the information on the passport and the information entered to the ESTA application are not in agreement, then the traveler will not be allowed to board the flight. This is because he or she will be considered not to have ESTA authorization. Since ESTA applications are based on self-reporting of information, the U.S. government does not check the content of the application against passport information when determining whether or not to authorize a traveler. For this reason, cases such as incorrect or incomplete passport numbers, entry of incorrect family name and given name, or errors in dates of birth could cause problems when checking in for the flight. To avoid such situations, the representative should check to make sure that the application information for the “Group of Applications” matches the information on all group members’ passports before traveling. If you find a discrepancy between the passport information and the information entered you may reapply for ESTA, although you will need to pay the associated costs again as well. We recommend that all members of the group, not just the representative, check the content of the application when submitting a “Group of Applications,” and then check again even after applying.

4. When should I apply for ESTA?

Be sure to apply for ESTA at least three days prior to travel. Generally, it is said to take up to three days, or 72 hours, to screen an ESTA application. However, keep in mind that notification of the results of screening may take longer due to system trouble or other issues, and in some cases ESTA authorization may be denied. If any error is found in your application, you will need to apply for ESTA again with the correct information, which means the application process would take even longer. The U.S. ESTA computer system is accessed by large numbers of people who wish to travel to the U.S. around the world every day. Only a few times in the past, though, screening and notification of results of screening have been delayed due to system failures, server downtime, and other causes. In addition, if there is a problem during ESTA screening for even one member of the family or the group, authorization may be delayed for all members of the group. To avoid stress at the time of departure, it is important to apply for ESTA soon after deciding on your travel plans.

5. What could happen if I didn’t apply for ESTA?

You must apply for ESTA to visit the continental U.S., Hawaii, and other U.S. islands for up to 90 days without a visa. If you have not obtained ESTA, then you will not be able to board your flight on the planned departure date. Even if somehow you were able to board your flight, you might be denied entry and forced to return to your home country in immigration screening after reaching the U.S. For both group and individual applications, you will receive notice of ESTA application results a few days after applying if there was no problem with the content of the application. In some cases, ESTA screening results may even be received on the same day. However, if there is a discrepancy in the application information for even one member of your family or group, then it could result in problems such as not being permitted to enter the U.S., ruining the travel plans for everybody in the party. Begin preparing to obtain ESTA soon after you have decided on your travel plans. Although you do not need to apply for ESTA to visit Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands, we recommend doing so because having ESTA can help immigration screening procedures go more smoothly and shorten waiting times.

6. Are preschool children and infants also required to apply for ESTA?

Preschool children and infants are required to apply for ESTA as well. All foreign travelers to the continental U.S., Hawaii, or other U.S. islands must apply for ESTA, regardless of their ages. If any member of your traveling party, including preschool children and infants, has not received ESTA, then airline staff will point it out when you check in for your flight, and your trip could get off to an unpleasant start. The application method is the same as for adults. Be sure to apply for ESTA for your entire family or group in advance so that your trip can have a stress-free start.

7. Should the representative pay for the ESTA application fee for all members of the group?

Many travelers applying for ESTA as a “Group of Applications” ask if the ESTA application fee must be paid separately for each traveler. The ESTA application fee may be paid by credit card all at once for all group members, either by the representative or by any other party. Even if the name of the applicant for ESTA differs from the name on the credit card used, it will not affect in ESTA screening at all. ESTA application fees may be paid by Visa, MasterCard, JCB, Diners Club, or American Express. Since payment may not be made through bank transfer or convenience stores, make sure you have one of these credit cards before applying. It is also very convenient having a credit card for checking in and paying at lodging accommodations. If you do not have one now, we recommend applying for one.

8. Is the result of application for a “Group of Applications” sent to the representative only?

When applying as a “Group of Applications,” we recommend to have notification of the results of the application sent to the representative’s email address. Having notification of the results sent to separate email addresses could make it more troublesome to check on the screening results or submit inquiries, and this also could result in a time lag between receiving notifications. It is more convenient using a single email address as the recipient of notification of results and as a main contact for the application, so that all application information can be collected by the representative centrally. Communications after the authorization decision and notification of results will be sent by emails in English. If your email has a SPAM filter, disable it in advance to make sure you can receive these emails.

9. What points should I note when applying for ESTA again?

Note that if you are rejected authorization to travel after applying for ESTA, you may not apply for ESTA again until 24 hours have passed since the time you were notified of the results of your previous application. Double-check the information on your passport and make sure to enter the information accurately when applying for ESTA again. You may apply for ESTA as many times as necessary, although you may have to pay the fee each time. You may also replace the content of your previous application by applying again. However, in some cases you might not be able to change or correct information entered. If your application is rejected even after applying again, contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), let them know that there was an error in the content of your application, and ask them how you can correct the application information. You cannot immediately cancel information once it has been entered. When applying for ESTA as a group or a family, all members of the party should cooperate to check the application’s content for any discrepancies or mistakes.

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updated:2018/9/19