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I'm a EU citizen living in Canada. I'm taking a road trip to the US next week. According to the CBP website, I don't need to renew my ESTA to do so.

In hopes of slightly accelerating the paperwork at the border, I just tried to fill out and pay for the I94 form ahead of time. However, the slick new online form doesn't let me do so, because I don't have a valid ESTA anymore.

Given that ESTA is a transparent money grab rather than a security measure (of the $14 fee, $10 goes to fund tourism ads and $4 goes to fund CBP), this seems like CBP is actively trying to con visitors into paying for something they don't need. Am I missing something?

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    FYI, you don't save much time by doing it in advance: travel.stackexchange.com/questions/109203/… – JonathanReez Sep 19 '19 at 4:08
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    How can you fill out this form without a visa? If i select passport as document, all the visa fields are required. VWP applicants don't have that information. So to me it seems that you don't need an ESTA, but you just can't use this form as VWP traveller. – dunni Sep 19 '19 at 8:36
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    @dunni: It seems that if you select a VWP country as the passport country of issuance, the visa fields become optional – user102008 Sep 19 '19 at 16:50
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    @dunni The I94 form has optional Visa fields for VWP passport holders. If you leave these visa fields blank and proceed, it appears to check if there is a valid ESTA, and if not it offers you a choice of either entering your US Visa details, or applying for an ESTA. It does not give you the option of continuing to obtain the I94 without either the US Visa details entered, or an ESTA application approved. This seems to be what the OP is finding. – Midavalo Sep 19 '19 at 17:57
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    @Midavalo I crossed the border this morning (as I've done many times before) and filled out the paper I94 as usual. Nobody said anything about ESTA. – sk29910 Sep 20 '19 at 1:25
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Unfortunately that's how the CBP website is setup at the moment - they expect you to have an ESTA by default, even though its not required for land crossings. Short of complaining to CBP and asking them to modify the website, there's not much you can do.

However do note that their online form doesn't end up saving much time for you in practice as per Would I save much time by applying for an I-94 online before arriving to a land border?

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