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Frequently Asked Questions

Clients often ask us the following questions.

What is ESTA?

ESTA, or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is an automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). It requires travellers from VWP countries to complete an online application, which assesses their biographic and eligibility information. ESTA approval does not guarantee entry into the United States; it simply authorises a traveller to board a carrier bound for the U.S. Applications should be submitted at least 72 hours before travel, and once approved, an ESTA is valid for two years or until the traveller's passport expires, whichever comes first. Travellers are advised to print a copy of their ESTA approval or have a digital copy ready to show at the airline check-in and U.S. immigration.

What are the regulations regarding powder-based substances in carry-on luggage?

In carry-on bags, powder-based substances exceeding 12 ounces (350 millilitres) are subject to additional screening at U.S. security checkpoints. These substances must be placed in a separate bin for X-ray screening. If security personnel cannot resolve any issues with the powder during this screening process, the substance will not be allowed on the aircraft and will be disposed of. Pack powders over the specified limit in your checked baggage whenever possible to avoid delays and complications.

Is it permissible to film or take photographs at security checkpoints?

Passengers can film and take photographs at security checkpoints if it does not interfere with the screening process or capture sensitive information. Being respectful and mindful of other travellers and security personnel is essential. Filming or photography should not delay the process or compromise security protocols. If asked to stop by security officers, comply promptly to avoid any potential issues.

Can I take my pet through the security checkpoint?

Yes, you can take your pet through the security checkpoint. You must remove your pet from its carrier and send the empty carrier through the X-ray machine. You should maintain control of your pet with a leash throughout the screening process. It's advisable to check with your airline regarding their specific policies and requirements for travelling with pets, as there may be additional guidelines to follow.

How early should I arrive at the airport before my flight's departure?

Arrival times can vary depending on the airport and the airline you are flying with; generally, arriving at the airport at least two hours before a domestic flight and three hours before an international flight is recommended. This allows sufficient time for parking, check-in, and passing through security screening. To get the most accurate advice, check with your airline and use tools like the MyTSA app, which provides current wait times and other helpful information for specific airports.

What should I do if I forget my identification before a flight?

If you arrive at the airport without your identification, you may still be allowed to proceed through security screening by providing additional information to verify your identity. TSA officers may ask you to provide personal information and answer questions to confirm your identity. You cannot enter the checkpoint if your identity cannot be verified. It's always best to double-check that you have all necessary identification documents before leaving for the airport.

During screening, can I keep head coverings and other religious, cultural, or ceremonial items?

You can keep your head coverings and other religious, cultural, or ceremonial items on during the security screening process. However, you may undergo additional screening, such as a pat-down. If you prefer, you can request a private screening. TSA officers are trained to handle these situations respectfully and sensitively, ensuring privacy and comfort while maintaining security protocols.

Should I remove my body piercings before passing through security?

Metal body piercings can sometimes trigger alarms during the security screening, which may result in a pat-down. If you prefer not to undergo a pat-down, you can remove the piercings privately and pass through the metal detector or imaging technology again. If you leave them in, inform the TSA officer to expedite the screening process.

What are the screening procedures for transgender persons at the airport?

Transgender persons will be screened according to their gender presentation at the security checkpoint. If you feel more comfortable, you can request a private screening anytime during the process. You can speak with a supervisor if you have concerns about the screening procedures. The TSA is committed to ensuring that all passengers are treated with respect and dignity while maintaining security standards.

What are the size restrictions for carry-on bags?

Carry-on bag size restrictions can vary by airline, so you must check with your specific airline for their guidelines. Generally, most airlines allow carry-on bags that fit within the dimensions of 22 x 14 x 9 inches (including handles and wheels). Ensure your carry-on bag meets the airline’s size requirements to avoid any issues or additional fees at the airport.

What steps are taken to screen musical instruments at security checkpoints?

Musical instruments require a physical inspection at security checkpoints. When you arrive at the checkpoint, inform TSA officers that you are carrying a musical instrument. If your instrument is fragile or needs special handling, let the officers know so they can take appropriate care during the inspection. Ensure your instrument fits your airline’s size requirements for carry-on or checked baggage to avoid complications.

Will children receive a pat-down during security screening?

TSA has modified procedures for children aged 12 and under to minimize the need for pat-downs. Security officers are trained to resolve alarms with minimal physical contact and will work with parents to ensure a smooth and comfortable screening process for young travellers. If additional screening is necessary, officers will explain the process and proceed with care and respect for the child’s comfort.

How to check your ESTA status?

To check the status of your ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), you can visit our "Status check" on our website. You will be required to enter key details such as your passport number and date of birth. If you do not remember your application number, you can still retrieve your ESTA status by entering your biographical information exactly as it was submitted on your original application.Once logged in, you'll be able to view the current status of your ESTA, which will show whether it is active, expired, or has been revoked. It’s crucial to confirm your ESTA status before making any travel plans to ensure you encounter no issues upon entering the United States. We recommend checking your ESTA status well in advance of your travel dates, particularly if you are a frequent traveller, to allow ample time for reapplication if necessary.

How does the imaging technology screening process work at U.S. airports?

Imaging technology screens passengers by using harmless electromagnetic waves to detect potential threats concealed under clothing without physical contact. Passengers stand in a machine that generates an image highlighting any hidden items. This process is quick and designed to enhance security while maintaining passenger privacy and comfort. If an item is detected, further inspection may be required to ensure it does not pose a threat.

Is imaging technology safe for all passengers?

The imaging technology used at U.S. airports is safe for all passengers, including pregnant women and children. The technology utilizes non-ionizing electromagnetic waves, which do not have the harmful effects of ionizing radiation. The process is designed to be safe, quick, and non-invasive, providing high security without compromising passenger health.

Can passengers opt out of imaging technology screening?

Yes, passengers have the option to opt out of imaging technology screening. If you prefer not to undergo this screening, you can request an alternative screening method, such as a pat-down. TSA officers will accommodate your request and ensure you are screened using a technique you are comfortable with while maintaining security standards.

What advanced imaging technology is used at airports?

Advanced imaging technology includes systems like millimetre wave and backscatter technology, designed to detect metallic and non-metallic threats concealed under clothing. These technologies provide a comprehensive security screening without physical contact, enhancing passenger safety while maintaining privacy. The systems are an integral part of modern airport security, helping to identify potential threats efficiently and effectively.

How is passenger privacy protected during imaging technology screening?

Passenger privacy is a top priority during imaging technology screening. Privacy filters obscure facial features, and images are not stored, printed, or transmitted. The technology generates a generic outline rather than a detailed image, ensuring that personal privacy is maintained. Additionally, passengers can request a private screening if they have concerns about privacy during the screening process.

Do I need to print my ESTA?

There is no requirement to print out the approved ESTA application and take it with you on your journey. However, it is recommended to print out this application or at least photograph it with your mobile phone to be able to present proof at any time during the trip. In exceptional cases, airlines may request a printed ESTA permit prior to departure to the United States.However, if you have forgotten to print or photograph your ESTA permit, you can also retrieve your ESTA application online in an emergency, stating your name, date of birth, passport number and country of issue of your passport.

How long does it take to get a ESTA?

Applying for an ESTA is fast. Within 20 minutes the online application form should be completed with all necessary information. Please have your passport, the contact address in the USA and your credit card ready. After a successful entry, all details must be checked again and, if necessary, a further application or further applications for fellow travelers must be completed. The final step is the request for payment. Depending on the number of applications, different costs are to be paid either by credit card or PayPal. In total, the application for an ESTA approval takes an average of 20 to 25 minutes.After completing an ESTA application, the approval or rejection takes place within 72 hours by e-mail. In very rare cases, a longer deadline may apply.

What is the ESTA visa?

ESTA is the abbreviation of Electronic System for Travel Authorization. As part of the US Visa Waiver Program, the ESTA Regulation was adopted by the DHS - Department of Homeland Security on November 7, 2008 and on January 12, 2009.The introduction of the Electronic Systems for Travel Authorization Portal for the early determination of whether legal or state security threats emanate from a US traveler was passed in direct connection with the law of the Investigation Commission as of September 11, 2007.An ESTA Visa Waiver does not constitute a full visa. It does not meet any legal requirements to be used as a visa substitute. However, travelers from countries eligible for the ESTA VWP program may apply for an ESTA visa online up to 72 hours prior to departure and, after successful approval, travel to the United States for up to 3 months at a time.Holders of a valid ESTA permit are required to complete a blue customs declaration at the Port of Entry upon arrival in the U.S., but do not need to complete the green I-94 W card.Holders of a valid visa do not need an ESTA. In both cases, i.e. for holders of a visa and holders of an ESTA, no guarantee is given to pass through the border police. Ultimately, the immigration officer at the board decides whether entry into the USA is granted.

When to submit an ESTA application?

Submitting your ESTA application at least 72 hours before your departure to the United States is recommended. Although some applications are approved instantly, it's wise to allow extra time for any potential processing delays. Please ensure that you have valid authorization before your travel date.

How can I complete an application that I have already started?

To complete a partially completed ESTA application, log in to your account on the website using your application ID and personal details. From there, you can resume and finish the application process. Please ensure that all required fields are filled in accurately.

What is the validity period of an ESTA?

An ESTA is valid for two years from the approval date or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. During this period, you can use the ESTA for multiple entries into the United States for stays of up to 90 days each, provided your travel purposes are for business, tourism, or transit.

How does an ESTA differ from a visa?

An ESTA is an electronic authorization for travellers from Visa Waiver Program countries, allowing stays of up to 90 days for tourism, business, or transit. However, a visa is a formal document issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate designated for extended stays or other purposes, such as work or study.

What should I do if I need to correct my ESTA application?

If you realize an error on your ESTA application, you must correct it before applying. If a mistake is found after submission, you can update specific fields by logging into your account. You may need to reapply for critical errors like passport number or country of citizenship.

How long does it take to process an ESTA application?

The ESTA application process typically takes a few minutes to complete. Most applicants receive an approval notification within 72 hours. However, applying as early as possible is advisable if additional processing time is needed.

Who can apply for an ESTA?

Citizens or nationals from Visa Waiver Program countries are eligible to apply for an ESTA. Applicants must have a valid passport, plan to stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less for tourism, business, or transit, and meet other eligibility requirements specified by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Can I apply for an ESTA without an email address?

No, a valid email address is required to apply for an ESTA. The email address is required to receive important notifications regarding your application status, including the approval or denial of your ESTA.

Why must I provide a valid email address when applying for an ESTA?

A valid email address is necessary to receive confirmation and updates about your ESTA application, including notifications of approval, denial, or requests for additional information. This ensures you stay informed throughout the application process.

Can the same email address be used for multiple ESTA applications?

Yes, you can use the same email address for multiple ESTA applications. It benefits families or groups travelling together, allowing one email to manage and receive updates for all submitted applications.

Do I need special software to submit an ESTA application?

No specific software is required to submit an ESTA application. You only need a device with internet access and a web browser to fill out and submit the application form on the website.

What if I do not verify my email address after applying for an ESTA?

You must verify your email address to ensure you get critical updates about your application status. Verifying your email ensures that you receive notifications about the approval or denial of your ESTA and any additional steps you might need to take.

What should I do when I select “Upload Your Passport”?

When you select “Upload Your Passport,” you will be prompted to upload a clear image or scan of your passport's biographic page. Ensure the image is legible and includes all relevant details to avoid delays in processing your application.

What if I use a device without a camera to upload my passport?

If your device does not have a camera, you can use a scanner to create an image of your passport’s biographic page. Save the scanned image to your device, then upload the file through the ESTA application portal as prompted.

How can I submit multiple ESTA applications at once?

To submit a group of ESTA applications, navigate to the group application section on the website. Follow the instructions to enter the required information for each traveller in the group, ensuring all mandatory fields are completed before submission.

What happens if I leave a mandatory field blank on my ESTA application?

Leaving a mandatory field blank will result in an incomplete application, which will prevent you from submitting it. Ensure all required fields are completed accurately to avoid delays or rejection of your application.

How can I update my information on an existing ESTA application?

Specific information on your ESTA application, such as your email address or U.S. contact information, can be updated by logging into your account on the website. Critical details, such as passport numbers or personal data, cannot be changed after submission, and a new application may be required.

When should I reapply for an ESTA?

You should reapply for an ESTA if your current authorization is expired, if you obtain a new passport, change your name or gender, or if your previous ESTA was revoked. Also, reapply if you change your country of citizenship or any of the eligibility questions’ answers change.

Can I carry my CPAP machine onboard the plane, and do I need to remove it from my carry-on?

Yes, you are allowed to carry your CPAP machine onboard the plane. During the security screening, you must remove the CPAP machine from its carrying case and place it in a bin for X-ray screening. All accessories can remain in the case. Ensure you inform the TSA officers that you are carrying a CPAP machine so they can assist you appropriately during the screening process.

Are passengers required to wear face masks during the screening process?

Passengers are encouraged to wear face masks for their safety and that of others. During the screening process, you may be asked to adjust or remove your mask to verify your identity briefly. TSA officers will ensure this is done quickly and efficiently, maintaining the highest levels of hygiene and safety throughout the process.

What should I know about travelling with medication through airport security?

Medications are permitted in both carry-on and checked bags. It is advisable to carry your medicines in your carry-on to ensure you have access to them during your flight. Inform TSA officers about any medically necessary liquids, gels, and aerosols that exceed the standard liquid limit. These items will undergo additional screening but are allowed through security once they are verified as safe.

What type of screening should I expect if I have a service animal?

When you travel with a service animal, you and your animal will undergo screening together. Inform TSA officers that you have a service animal. The officer may direct you together using a metal detector or advanced imaging technology. The officer may also need to inspect the animal’s harness and other equipment. The screening process is designed to be respectful and efficient, ensuring you and your service animal can proceed smoothly.

Do I need to remove my ostomy pouch for security screening?

You do not need to remove your ostomy pouch during security screening. Inform the TSA officer about your ostomy pouch, and they will conduct a pat-down and use test strips to check for any explosives. The screening process will be carried out with respect for your privacy and medical needs.

Who can I contact for special assistance during the screening process?

If you require special assistance during the screening process, contact the TSA Cares helpline at least 72 hours before your flight. The helpline provides information about screening policies and can arrange additional airport assistance. This service ensures that travellers with disabilities or medical conditions receive the support they need for a smooth and comfortable screening experience.

What are the screening procedures for passengers with internal or external medical devices?

If you have an internal or external medical device, such as a pacemaker or metal implant, it's crucial to inform the TSA officer before screening begins. This step is for your safety and to ensure that you are treated with the utmost respect and understanding. You may request a pat-down instead of going through the metal detector or advanced imaging technology. The officers are trained to handle these situations with care, ensuring your medical devices are not affected, and you receive a respectful and thorough screening.

How can I retrieve a prohibited item that was removed from my baggage?

If TSA confiscates a prohibited item from your baggage, you will receive instructions for reclaiming it. Options may include mailing the item back to yourself, picking it up later, or having it disposed of. TSA will provide specific instructions based on the type of item and the airport’s policies. It’s advisable to review the list of prohibited items before packing to avoid any issues at the security checkpoint.

Are breast milk, formula, and juice exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

Breast milk, formula, and juice are exempt from the 3-1-1 liquids rule, which restricts the amount of liquids you can bring through security. Inform the TSA officer if you are carrying these items. They will be subject to additional screening but are allowed in quantities over 3.4 ounces. This exemption ensures parents and caregivers have the necessary supplies for their children during travel.

Can I pack food in my carry-on or checked bag?

Yes, you can pack food in both your carry-on and checked bags. Solid food items are preferred in carry-on bags as they are more screen-accessible. If you carry liquid or gel food items, they must comply with the 3-1-1 liquids rule. Packing food properly ensures a smoother screening process and helps avoid any unnecessary delays at the checkpoint.

What happens if the TSA finds me travelling with hazardous materials?

If TSA determines that you are travelling with hazardous material, the item will not be allowed through security. The dangerous material may be confiscated, and you could face penalties. It is crucial to familiarize yourself with the list of hazardous materials and ensure you do not bring any prohibited items to the airport. This helps ensure your safety and the safety of other passengers.

What is the 3-1-1 liquids rule?

The 3-1-1 liquids rule allows passengers to carry liquids, gels, and aerosols in containers of 3.4 ounces (100 millilitres) or less. These containers must be placed in a single, quart-sized clear resealable bag, with one bag allowed per passenger. This rule facilitates a smooth and efficient security screening process while maintaining safety and security standards.