I have an emergency (loss of a friend) and I am looking at tickets to the US to leave in a matter of hours. I know an ESTA is valid for 2 years. I travelled to the US for the last time 18 months ago but I do not remember if I used a previous ESTA or not at the time.

I want to buy a ticket for a plane that leaves in 6 hours, if I apply for an ESTA online, will it be ok? They recommend doing it at least 72 hours in advance.

Some background: I lived in LA for 11 years with a student visa and never had any trouble with any government agencies (police, immigration etc...). I do not think it will be a problem but I know the immigration agency can be very tedious about their reglementation.

  • If you don't have an ESTA how do you plan to enter the US?
    – Karlson
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 21:11
  • @Karlson I am currently applying for it now, but I'm not sure if it is too alte
    – solalito
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 21:12
  • @solalito they're normally issued after a few seconds. Can't you look up your last ESTA to see whether it is still valid?
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 21:17
  • 4
    @solalito it's no trouble. The site and its users are here to answer questions. The fact that the question was asked in panic doesn't make it a bad question.
    – phoog
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 21:31
  • 2
    As a rule of thumb, the fact that you are in a hurry is your problem, not that of the other party (whatever it is a foreign country government, an public organization at your country or a private organization). If you are lucky, you may get a little leeway if you have a valid reason for being in such a hurry (a relative who is ill or has suffered an accident, for example) and you can explain it to the people in charge of deciding, but that is far from granted.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:38

2 Answers 2


Yes. You need an ESTA, either a new one or an old one if it is still valid.

It normally only takes a matter of minutes at most, but there is no guarantee.

You can use the CBP website to check your ESTA status (use the option for "I Do NOT Know the Application Number"). If you don't have a valid one, apply right away.

  • 1
    Could he travel using the return ticket of someone with the same name who already has a valid ESTA? :)
    – Berwyn
    Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 23:55
  • 3
    @Berwyn considering that getting a valid ESTA is very fast and customs are understanding of these emergency visits, risking getting caught because the name on a passport doesn't match the one on the visa isn't worthwhile :) Commented Sep 26, 2016 at 23:59
  • 1
    For context, Berwyn is referencing this question. Commented Sep 27, 2016 at 0:05

Yes, you need an ESTA. The ESTA website will check for you if a valid ESTA exists for your passport. Simply enter a new ESTA and after entering all your information, before submitting payment, the system will warn that there's already a valid ESTA and ask if you want to pay for a new one (don't).

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