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ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Dublin, Ireland
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13 posts
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ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Here is a word of warning to anyone who is applying for an ESTA. Yesterday I unknowingly applied through a third party website. I googled "ESTA application" and selected the first site that came up. I wasn't focused on what I was doing as I was doing two or three other things at the same time. I completed the information and was directed to the payments page. I didn't notice any amount and as I thought I was on the DHS website I assumed the charge would be $14. I went ahead and completed the details for the second ESTA only to discover that there was a figure of $74 in the top right hand corner completely away from where you filled in your credit card details. To my horror I discovered that I paid $148 for two ESTA's that I should have paid $28 for. It is totally my own fault and I am posting this to make sure that no one makes the same mistake as I did. Needless to say when I looked for my money back from the third party I was told that under their terms and conditions it isn't refundable as the ESTA's have been issued. I am now in touch with my credit card company to see what they can do. As I said it was all my own fault and hopefully this post might help someone to ensure that they don't make the same mistake as I did.

Roll on the holiday next week in Marco - things can only get better!!

Sussex
Destination Expert
for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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1. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

It's a timely warning.

I renewed my ESTA earlier this year and was aware of the non-official sites. It took me two or three attempts to find the official DHS site. The unofficial sites looked very convincing and I am sure they trick a lot of people.

I guess they are doing nothing illegal otherwise they would be shut down, but it doesn't seem terribly ethical to me.

Dayton, OH / Marco...
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for Marco Island, Everglades National Park, Goodland
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2. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

I travel a lot to Europe ... But I don't have a clue what a ESTA is ... What is it?

Fort Lauderdale...
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for Fort Lauderdale
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3. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Marco- it is only for travellers from certain other countries coming into the US- not for US citizens. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization ( I think) and is on online form people from certain identified countries must complete and have approved before travelling here . I think it takes the place of those green forms that used to be handed out on the airplane- it is now all done in advance. Immigration at each port of entry ( or airport) have lists of approved ESTAs .

Problem is that people should go to the US Government's own site and complete the form for $14 but other companies have gone on line with similar and confusing names and when you use them to fill out the form you are charged much. much more... unfortunately , I think it is legal for them to offer to "assist' people in filling out an ESTA form and forward it on their behalf and charge any fee they want for the "service". Folks need to be careful that they are on the official site so they will only have to pay $14 pp.

But it is not something we will have to do.

Sussex
Destination Expert
for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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896 posts
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4. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Very good summary of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization system Lulutoo.

A valid ESTA is now (and has been for a few years) a compulsory requirement for residents of countries who are part of the visa waiver scheme when they visit the US.

In principle, it is a good idea. In reality, it is getting a bad reputation because of the sort of companies discussed in the initial post of this thread.

UK
Destination Expert
for Florida
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5. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

We have a sticky at the top of the Orlando page, as there are so many UK/Eire and other travellers who need ESTA or a Visa to travel to the USA. It shows the correct site.

Perhaps the local experts can contact TA over their own sticky? Or maybe a Top Question?

Tyler, Texas
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118 reviews
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6. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Beware of what? A site that says what it is and does what it says! My cable company is far less transparent.

UK
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for Florida
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7. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

No, the site doesn't say they are charging $60 extra for effectively something that is easy to do and costs $14. The price for the 'service' was hidden. They pretend to be the US gov website in most cases.

Maybe sometime you will be travelling in europe or elsewhere outside the USA and get caught out by fraudsters?

Sussex
Destination Expert
for Mana Pools National Park, Marco Island
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896 posts
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8. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Quite so amanx.

Naples, Florida
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for Naples
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9. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

This is the link for ESTA through US Department of Homeland Security / Customs and Border Protection

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

Hope that helps

Dublin, Ireland
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13 posts
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10. Re: ESTA applications - BEWARE!

Thanks for all your responses.

As I said it was my own fault but the website I used was deliberately misleading. The figure of $74 was buried in small print in the bottom right hand corner of page 1 and there was no total cost of the transaction shown apart from the figure on the top right hand side of the payment page which was placed deliberately as far away as possible from where you were putting in your credit card details. There wasn't even a dollar sign beside it nor was there any reference to "total cost" or "amount to pay". To add insult to injury I received two emails from the website on Monday asking me to complete a questionnaire as to whether or not I was satisfied with the transaction!

We live and learn!

Fidelma 1

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