What are the ESTA Questions?

Published on: Sep 21, 2017, Last Edited: Aug 22, 2019 | Tags: ESTA Application Guide, ESTA Form, ESTA Application, ESTA Questions


The ESTA application form is managed and administered by the Department of Homeland Security. The purpose of the form is to gather a substantial amount of information so that U.S. Customs and Border Protection can cross check an applicant’s details across numerous international terrorism, no-fly and criminal databases. However, U.S. personnel are considerate of applicant time since if the ESTA form is too time consuming and cumbersome, then the purpose of the online travel authorization is lost as it would inconvenience travelers and possibly discourage tourism to the United States. Thus, the ESTA questions on the form reflect the desire to ask for a minimum level of information that would provide border authorities with the confidence an applicant would pose no considerable risk to U.S. public safety.

The following table can be used as reference for the question fields asked in each section of the ESTA form. Each section is then discussed below the table. Answers to questions listed below are all compulsory, otherwise they are denoted as optional where relevant (source: https://www.cbp.gov/).

ESTA Application Section

ESTA Question Fields

APPLICANT / PASSPORT INFORMATION

Family Name, First (Given) Name, Gender, Aliases, Date of Birth, City of Birth, Country of Birth, Passport Number, Country of Citizenship, National Identification Number, Passport Issuance Date, Passport Expiry Date, Passport Issuing Country, Have you ever been issued a passport or national identity card for travel by any other country? If yes, provide Issuing Country, Document Type, Document Number, and Expiration Year.

OTHER CITIZENSHIP/NATIONALITY

Are you now, a citizen or national of any other country? If yes, provide the Country of Citizenship / Nationality, How did you acquire citizenship / nationality from this country? Have you ever been a citizen or national of any other country? If yes, provide the Country of Citizenship / Nationality.

GE MEMBERSHIP

Are you a member of the CBP Global Entry Program? If yes, provide the PASSID / Membership Number

PARENTS

Both parents Family Name and Given (First) Name

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address Line 1, Address Line 2, Apartment Number, City, State/Province/Region, Country, Telephone Type, Telephone Number, Email Address

SOCIAL MEDIA (OPTIONAL)

Provider / Platform, Social Media Identifier

EMPLOYMENT INFORMATION

Do you have a current or previous employer? If yes, provide the Job Title, Employer Name, Address Line 1, Address Line 2, City, State/Province/Region, Country, Telephone

ENTER TRAVEL INFORMATION

Is your travel to the US occurring in transit to another country? If yes, provide the information in the next section:

U.S. POINT OF CONTACT INFORMATION

Name, Address Line 1, Address Line 2, Apartment Number, City, State, Phone Number

ADDRESS WHILE IN THE U.S.

Address Line 1, Address Line 2, Apartment Number, City, State, Phone Number

EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION IN OR OUT OF THE U.S.

Family Name, First (Given) Name, Email Address, Telephone,

ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS

  1. Do you have a physical or mental disorder; or are you a drug abuser or addict; or do you currently have any of the following diseases (communicable diseases are specified pursuant to section 361(b) of the Public Health Service Act): Cholera, Diphtheria, Tuberculosis infectious, Plague, Smallpox, Yellow Fever, Viral Hemorrhagic Fevers, including Ebola, Lassa, Marburg, Crimean-Congo, Severe acute respiratory illnesses capable of transmission to other persons and likely to cause mortality.
  2. Have you ever been arrested or convicted for a crime that resulted in serious damage to property, or serious harm to another person or government authority?
  3. Have you ever violated any law related to possessing, using, or distributing illegal drugs?
  4. Do you seek to engage in or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities, espionage, sabotage, or genocide?
  5. Have you ever committed fraud or misrepresented yourself or others to obtain, or assist others to obtain, a visa or entry into the United States?
  6. Are you currently seeking employment in the United States or were you previously employed in the United States without prior permission from the U.S. government?
  7. Have you ever been denied a U.S. visa you applied for with your current or previous passport, or have you ever been refused admission to the United States or withdrawn your application for admission at a U.S. port of entry?
  8. Have you ever stayed in the United States longer than the admission period granted to you by the U.S. government?
  9. Have you traveled to, or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011?

APPLICANT / PASSPORT INFORMATION

The first section of the form requests basic applicant information, including fields such as first name and family name. This section also requests information about an applicant’s passport details along with information about other nationalities and any relevant documents for the other nationality. Your ESTA application details must match those on your passport. When providing information in this section, be careful when entering your passport details as errors will result in your ESTA being invalid. Other common errors include applicants omitting their middle names from the First (Given) Name fields as well as applicants putting their first name in the last name field, and vice versa.

OTHER CITIZENSHIP/NATIONALITY

This section requests information about past and current citizenships. If the applicant has another citizenship, the applicant must disclose how they obtained the citizenship and provide information on the country of citizenship. Applicants must also disclose the countries where they previously held citizenships, although the form does not request information on how the applicant acquired citizenships that are no longer active.

GE MEMBERSHIP

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has a Global Entry program for expedited entry and security clearance. CBP Global entry travelers are pre-approved, and thus deemed low-risk travelers. Members of the program can enter the United States through automated kiosks at various U.S. airports. The ESTA form captures this information so that CBP Global Entry members can seamlessly enter the United States using their approved ESTA and membership credentials.

PARENTS

In this section, you will need to provide information on your parents, including their first and last names. Parents, for the purposes of the question, are considered to be biological, adoptive, step parents or guardians. If this information is unknown, use the individuals who cared for you when you were young or simply ‘UNKNOWN’ if you did not have any parents or caregivers.

CONTACT INFORMATION

Address, telephone and email contact information are requested in this section of the ESTA application. Ensure each part of your address is entered correctly into the fields. For example, ‘Address Line 1’ is the street address and house number where you reside. CBP will likely not use your address information for correspondence. Your email address will be used for communications regarding your ESTA application.

SOCIAL MEDIA (OPTIONAL)

CBP included this section in 2016 to gather information on an applicant’s social media information. Applicants can select from options in the form dropdown such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, as well as others, or enter other social platforms not listed in the dropdown along with their social media identifier such as the account name. These details are not currently required although they may be at some point in the future. CBP may use social media information to determine the security risks posed by applicants that undergo additional screening during the processing of their ESTA.

EMPLOYMENT INFORMATION

The employment information section on the ESTA form has questions about an applicant’s employer name and contact information. This information is requested as it provides CBP with insight into your employment situation. Although this information is likely not used for approving or denying ESTA applications, it is likely used by Border Guards who can question visitors at the border regarding the purposes of their stay in the U.S. and genuineness in returning to their home country after their travel plans are complete.

U.S. POINT OF CONTACT INFORMATION

Travelers coming to the U.S. for reasons other than transit purposes, will need to provide information on their U.S. contact including address and telephone number. If an applicant does not have a U.S. contact person, they can provide the details of a U.S. organization or hotel. Otherwise, if U.S. contact information is not available, applicants can enter ‘UNKNOWN’ for text fields and a sequence of zeros ‘0’ for number fields. The U.S. Point of Contact information allows CBP to determine where an applicant will likely stay during their visit and provides details of a visitor’s liaison.

ADDRESS WHILE IN THE U.S.

The information in this section can be the same as the previous if, for example, a tourist is visiting New York and has only the hotel contact information available and no U.S. contacts. However, business visitors coming to negotiate a contract should provide the name of their contact in one section and their hotel or accommodation details in the other section. Otherwise, if an applicant has not yet booked accommodation for their planned visit, they can enter ‘UNKNOWN’ for text fields and a sequence of zeros ‘0’ for number fields.

EMERGENCY CONTACT INFORMATION IN OR OUT OF THE U.S.

In the event an applicant has a medical emergency without any next of kin, CBP will use the information to contact an ESTA applicant’s nominated persons. Some applicants may not have an emergency contact, and thus they can under ‘UNKNOWN’ for the emergency contact fields.

ELIGIBILITY QUESTIONS

These 9 yes or no ESTA questions determine the eligibility of travelers. The questions span a number of topics intended to determine if an applicant poses a risk due to their personal health, criminal history, drug history, terrorism-related activities, U.S. employment aspirations, U.S. immigration and visa history, as well as their travel history to select countries in Africa and the Middle East. Answering a ‘yes’ to anyone of these ESTA eligibility questions will most likely result in an application being denied, thus take care when filling in this section of the form. If you are requested to provide additional information for one of the eligibility questions, ensure you provide your answers in an honest and concise manner.

WAIVER OF RIGHTS

Applicants will also need to complete the “Waiver of Rights” section which essentially states an applicant waivers their rights to an appeal or a review of any decision by Customs and Border Protection on an ESTA application. Acceptance of this waiver of rights is required to submit an ESTA application.

CERTIFICATION SECTION

In this section, an ESTA applicant agrees he / she understood the questions on the form and answered them truthfully and correctly to the best of their knowledge and belief. Acceptance of this certification is required to submit an ESTA application.

Conclusion

Although filing in an ESTA application seems like a trivial task, there are considerations applicants should make when answering various ESTA questions on the form. Fortunately, applicants can review their responses prior to sending the form off to be processed by CBP, thus applicants are advised to double check the information they provided on the form and review their answers to the ESTA questions.

If you hold a passport from a visa waiver country such as the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand or other Western European Country, you may be eligible to apply for ESTA. An ESTA is valid for tourist, business, medical or transit purposes. Get started on your application, otherwise, visit the FAQ to learn more about the ESTA

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