While obtaining ESTA approval is reasonably straightforward, you might be confused about what to expect at a US port of entry while traveling.

This article covers commonly encountered airport incidents when traveling with ESTA. Read on to learn what to expect and how to get yourself travel-ready for your trip to the US.

Do I Need any Other Documents Apart From ESTA?

Apart from your ESTA approval, you will be needing your digital passport. It is fitted with a chip inside. A digital passport holds a characteristic logo on its front, that makes it stand out. 

This passport must also contain a machine-readable zone on the biographic page. A machine-readable passport includes two lines of text at the bottom of the information page. 

The text comprises symbols and alphabets. 

Note that if you do not possess a machine-readable passport, you will not be issued an ESTA. Furthermore, your passport must be valid for a minimum of six months after entry into the US. 

You are eligible to apply for ESTA if you have a passport issued by one of the VWP countries. Additionally, ever since the covid pandemic, you are also required to possess a covid 19 vaccination certificate.

Documents to Carry in Case of Name/ Gender Change

If you have changed your name or gender recently, you need to carry legal documentation. Along with proof of your new identity, you must also carry proof showing that you were the owner of the previous identity. 

As long as you have not made the changes to your passport yet, you can travel using your previous identity and corresponding ESTA.

Documentation Which is Not Mandatory but Good to Have

Once you enter the US you will have to provide border security agents regarding your purpose of visit to the country and where you will be residing during this time.

It is useful to carry documents supporting your answers. For instance a copy of your return ticket (indicating the stay is not going to be for more than 90 days), hotel reservation receipts, and any documentation related to your purpose of visit. 

Other documentation that might be useful when traveling includes medical insurance. This will keep you medically covered throughout your stay in the US. 

If you intend to rent a car in the US during your stay, you must carry your driving license with you. The license of some countries for instance France is valid even in the US and you may use it easily during your trip. 

Another important document to carry during travel is your national identification. While it will not be checked at the airport, it may prove useful in case you lose your passport during your stay. 

You should also carry photocopies of all important documents (passport, tickets, hotel reservation) and place them in your luggage. These copies may prove beneficial in the event of losing the originals. 

Do I Need ESTA to Visit the USA?

Yes, you will be needing ESTA to visit the US if you qualify for the following categories:

  • You are a citizen of one of the VWP countries
  • You are traveling to the US for 90 days or less
  • You are traveling by sea, land, or air
  • The purpose of your visit is to travel, do business, or transit

Do I Need Specific Travel Plans to Apply For ESTA?

It is not necessary to fill in your entire travel plans when filling out the ESTA form. The only thing that you need to enter is where you will be staying when you reach the US. here again, it is not necessary to write down all the places that you intend to visit.

If you apply for ESTA even before your travel plan is finalized, you can just write “unknown” in the area specified for address in the US. This particular field can be changed later, even after form submission. Hence, this is one less thing to worry about at the time of form submission.

Do I Need to Apply For ESTA if I Fly Through US Airspace And Do I Need to Apply For ESTA if I Have a Stopover in the United States?

Yes, you need to apply for ESTA in both of these situations. Check the “in transit” box of the ESTA form

In case you do not have a valid ESTA you might be prevented from boarding by your airline or ship. You need it even if you are not getting off your plane or ship and are en route to another country. 

Do I Need to Print and Bring My ESTA to the Airport?

It is not obligatory to bring a printout. Since your ESTA is valid for a 2-year period, it is beneficial if you obtain a printout of the questions asked in the form. This will assist you to keep a track of your responses. You will also be better prepared to answer questions at the immigration desk on subsequent visits to the US.

Furthermore, should any changes occur in this two-year validity period, you can modify your replies or if need be, apply for a new ESTA.

You can also print out the email of approval that you receive. This ensures the safekeeping of the reference number which comes in handy if you wish to modify your answers. Additionally, the email printout can also keep a track of your ESTA date of expiry. 


For your next USA trip using your ESTA authorization, ensure that you try out all the above-mentioned tips and tricks for smooth and hassle-free travel.