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Is there an ESTA Entry Form?

Updated: Jan 21, 2024  | Tags: ESTA Form, ESTA Requirements

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) no longer requires travelers visiting the U.S. by land, air or sea to complete paper-based I-94 or I-94W Arrival / Departure forms, which used to be confused as 'ESTA Entry Forms', given they were required just prior to the launch of the ESTA in 2008. Thus, since 2008 travelers arriving by land, air or sea to U.S. territories must now apply for an ESTA online if they wish to travel under the Visa Waiver Program.

What is the ESTA Entry Form?
What is the ESTA Entry Form?

Are I-94 or I-94W forms still used?

Prior to 2008, arrivals into the U.S. were required to complete paper-based I-94 or I-94W forms for entry into the United States. Paper-based I-94 and I-94W forms are no longer used by CBP to keep track of the departure and arrival dates of travelers arriving by land across the Mexican and Canadian borders. However, since 2009 eligible travelers arriving by air or sea have been required to obtain either an ESTA online or a USA visa. The ESTA was developed after Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 for travelers under the Visa Waiver Program, which was originally formed in 1986.

In October 2022, the rules changed once again. From this date, all VWP eligible travelers are required to obtain ESTA approval if driving through the border to the United States. Non-VWP eligible travelers will need to file digital I-94 forms.

What benefits does ESTA provide over the paper-based I-94 and I-94W forms?

Completing an online ESTA entry form is a simple process and must be completed by travelers wishing to travel to the United States for business, tourism or transit purposes. Applicants typical need 15-20 minutes to complete the online entry form and submit it for processing. Decisions are typically made within minutes of completing payment.

An approved ESTA allows citizens of 41 visa waiver countries the ability to travel to the United States with an electronic travel authorization. Eligible travelers for the ESTA are those who hold a passport to one of the 41 visa waiver countries and fulfil the required criteria set forth by CBP. New countries are added to the Visa Waiver Program infrequently. There are also additional factors influencing eligibility including passport type, travel purpose, as wel as travel, immigration, criminal and medical history in addition to others. You can check your eligibility for ESTA by reviewing the ESTA requirements.

What if a traveler is not eligible for an ESTA?

Travelers not eligible for ESTA will need to apply for a U.S. visa. U.S. visa applicants can complete the DS-160 visa application form online, however, an interview at a U.S. embassy is a requirement. Applicant embassy appointments may be waived if the applicant has successfully obtained a U.S. visa in the past or the applicant is under the age of 14 or over the age of 80. When scheduling an embassy appointment, the U.S. visa application system will prompt applicants to provide the necessary documentation based on their circumstances.

Do I still need to fill out a customs form when entering the U.S.?

Every person entering the United States will need to complete a paper or digital CBP Declaration Form 6059B. Completion of this is required regardless of what travel authorization you are using to enter the U.S. Citizens of the United States, Green Card or visa holders as well as ESTA applicants all need to provide a completed copy of the CBP Declaration Form 6059B to pass through customs. Failure to do so may lead to forfeiture of taxable or restricted items, fines, imprisonment or deportation.