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I am travelling on a scheduled flight from London arranged by the cruise company who will be providing a shuttle bus directly to the ship.

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    Is there a difference? (are you using a official site, which ends with .gov? You need an ESTA also for transit. Note: probably the cruise ships stop in other ports in US (when departing from NYC). And if you are a crew member, ask your cruise line (there are some special/simplified procedures) Dec 14, 2023 at 13:37
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    @GiacomoCatenazzi The ESTA application asks if you are transiting or not
    – Midavalo
    Dec 14, 2023 at 14:50
  • @GiacomoCatenazzi a crew member can't use ESTA in lieu of a C-1/D visa.
    – phoog
    Dec 15, 2023 at 1:31

2 Answers 2

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The ESTA is the same regardless of your travel purpose. This is different from most transit visas which are easier to get than a visitor visa, but have much stronger constraints. So there isn't a very precise definition of “transit” in the context of an ESTA.

Since you aren't spending a night in the US, say “yes” to the transit question. This will let you skip the question of where you're spending your first night in the US (and instead you'll be asked how you continue your journey).

For nationalities that aren't eligible for an ESTA, the US have a transit visa which is distinct from a visitor visa. Your travel plans are compatible with a transit visa since you are meet the requirement of “reasonably expeditious departure of the traveler in the normal course of travel as the elements permit and assumes a prearranged itinerary without any unreasonable layover privileges”.

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    A thought: As the cruise ship might be in a US harbor, the traveller might spend the night in the US (my understanding is that the ship has to be in international or other countries waters to not be in the US). So maybe the passenger should give the cruise ship as first night?
    – ghellquist
    Dec 15, 2023 at 10:34
-5

The ESTA is a document that allows you, as a citizen from a visa-waiver nation, to fly to the USA. That's it. And since there's no airside transit in the US, you have to enter the country, on the visa waiver. You will go from JFK to Brooklyn as a regular tourist. And then leave the country there, boarding the cruise ship.

TD;DR: The purpose of your flying to the US is irrelevant: you need to enter the country when you land.

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    The ESTA application asks if you are transiting or not
    – Midavalo
    Dec 14, 2023 at 14:50
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    "The purpose of your flying to the US is irrelevant: you need to enter the country when you land": this is true, but not relevant to the question. You also need to enter the US if you are traveling on a C-1 visa. The lack of airside transit in the US does not mean that the US doesn't recognize transit as a distinct immigration status or purpose of travel; it does.
    – phoog
    Dec 15, 2023 at 1:34

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