What is ESTA and Why Does it Matter?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an application platform that is run by the government of the US. The platform typically manages applications from the passengers seeking to enter into the USA soil under the Visa Waiver Program or VWP.
How Secure is my Information?
Your information is 100 % secure. The fact that this website is run by the government of the United States of America and utilises state-of-the-art technology to avert any illegal access to the data you input and view guarantees that your information is safe. Also, this site strictly follows the rules and guidelines as outlined by the US Privacy Act. By following this act, the site ensures that your private data is secure.
How Long is the Data be Stored on the ESTA Application?
The data that is archived in the ESTA application data remains active as long as the applicant’s travel authorization is active, which is usually two years. Nevertheless, the data may become inactive if the traveler’s passport expires. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will then store this data for an extra year. Afterwards, it will be stored for an additional twelve years to facilitate recovery of the data for national security, law enforcement, or investigatory reasons. After the archival of the data, the number of users who can access it is significantly limited.
This data archived is similar to the information being held by the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) search authority. It is also consistent with the border security mission as instructed by the congress. If your data is associated with any law enforcement search records, cases or investigations, or CBP enforcement activities, it will be accessible as long as the law enforcement related to the data are active. Your data may also remain active for an extended period if your application for ESTA was denied.
Currently, The Department of Homeland Security has transitioned to a paperless I-94W. As a result, it is destined that ESTA application will wholly replace the information that is collected via the physical I-94W paper. In this scenario where the ESTA app data is utilised to store the data collected via the I-94W paper, it is inevitable that the ESTA app data will be managed according to the retention schedule for the I-94W paper, as has been the case for the last 75 years.
Is My Data Shared with Third-party Applications or Users?
The data that is collected and stored in the ESTA application platform may be utilised by the components that are linked to the Department of Homeland Security on a need-to-know basis. However, the departments should be authorised to access the data. With the present agreements between the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the DOS (Department of State), it is possible to share the data that is acquired during an ESTA application with the consular officers of the Department of State. Nonetheless, they should only gain access to the data as long as it’s helping them in defining whether a Visa should be given to an applicant, especially after the denial of a travel authorization application.
In addition, the information stored on the application platform may be shared with proper state, federal, tribal, local, multilateral government organizations, as well as foreign government agencies which are mandated to prosecute or investigate various violations. For instance, these institutions may be authorised to implement or enforce, a rule, statute, order, license, or regulation. The departments can only access the information in situations where the Department of Homeland Security believes that the collected data would be helpful when it comes to enforcement of criminal or civil laws.
Besides, you may come across scenarios where the data is shared when the Department of Homeland Security believes that the use of the information would help assist the intelligence or the anti-terrorism departments gather info that is linked to international or national security as well as a transnational crime. Nonetheless, the good thing is that all sharing remains is based on the Privacy Act System of Records Notice. This privacy act was enacted and published on 10th June 2018. Still, it is available on the Department of Homeland Security website.
As a passenger, it will not be possible to get the ESTA application data that is given to the DHS by the travelers. However, it will be possible to get a carrier’s status confirmation through the APIS (Advance Passenger Information System). With this, it becomes easier to identify whether ESTA is needed as well as whether authorization has been approved or not.
How Safe is My Payment Information?
Your payment information is 100 % safe. After the completion of the payment transaction, no information is retained on the ESTA system. Perhaps, you are wondering how the government of the USA secures ESTA’s data privacy as well as controlling the users having access to it. The data that is submitted to the ESTA website by the users are usually subjected to similar strict privacy controls and provisions that have been put in place for the same traveler screening programs. Any access to this type of data is restricted to the users with a professional need-to-know agenda.