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Do I need to apply for an ESTA on behalf of my children?

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). This program allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, or transit purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

When it comes to children traveling under the VWP, there are specific guidelines and considerations regarding whether or not they need an individual ESTA application.

Age Requirements for ESTA Application

  1. Children and ESTA Eligibility:
    • Children, regardless of their age, require their own approved ESTA to travel to the United States if they are included in a parent or guardian’s passport.
    • Each child, including infants and minors, needs a separate ESTA application.
  2. Age Cut-off for Child ESTA Application:
    • Even newborns and infants, who are included on their parents’ passports, need to have a separate ESTA approval.
    • There is no minimum age requirement for an individual ESTA application; all children, regardless of age, must have their own ESTA.

Process of Applying for Child ESTA

  1. Individual Application:
    • Parents or legal guardians can fill out the ESTA application form on behalf of their children.
    • The process for children is the same as for adults; however, the application form should be completed with the child’s details.
  2. Information Required:
    • When completing the ESTA form for a child, guardians must provide information such as the child’s full name, date of birth, passport details, and other necessary personal information.
  3. Parental Responsibility:
    • Parents or guardians are responsible for accurately providing all required information in the child’s ESTA application.
    • Ensuring accuracy in the application is crucial, as any mistakes or discrepancies could lead to complications or denial of entry into the U.S.

Considerations and Recommendations

  1. Timing of Application:
    • It’s advisable to apply for ESTA well in advance of the intended travel date to allow sufficient processing time and to address any potential issues that may arise.
    • ESTA approvals are usually granted swiftly, but delays can occur due to various reasons, so planning ahead is essential.
  2. Validity Period:
    • An approved ESTA is generally valid for two years or until the expiration date of the traveler’s passport, whichever comes first.
    • If a child’s passport expires before the two-year ESTA validity period, a new ESTA application will be required once the child receives a new passport.
  3. Update Changes:
    • Should any information provided in the child’s ESTA application change (such as passport details or personal information), it’s necessary to update the ESTA to reflect these changes.
  4. Entry with Valid ESTA:
    • Having an approved ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States. The final decision regarding admission is made by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at the port of entry.
  5. Traveling Alone:
    • In the case of a child traveling alone or with someone other than their parent or legal guardian, additional documentation, such as a parental consent form or a letter of authorization, may be required.

Conclusion

In summary, if children, regardless of age, are included in their parents’ passports and are traveling under the Visa Waiver Program to the United States, they must have their own approved ESTA. Parents or legal guardians are responsible for submitting individual ESTA applications for their children, providing accurate information, and ensuring compliance with all ESTA requirements. Planning ahead and adhering to the guidelines outlined for child ESTA applications can facilitate a smoother travel process and help avoid complications when visiting the United States.

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