U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced on August 9, 2012, that multiple applications may be submitted and paid for in one transaction via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The new online application is available beginning on Wednesday, August 15.

Applicants must enter biographic data and an e-mail address to create a Group ID that will allow a family or group the ability to input up to 50 ESTA applications and complete the transaction in a single credit card payment. All payments for ESTA applications must be made by credit card or debit card when applying or renewing. Applications will not be submitted for processing until all payment information is received.

ESTA is an electronic travel authorization that all nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries must obtain before boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the United States under the VWP. This travel authorization has been mandatory since January 12, 2009. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time before travel, although CBP recommends applying at least 72 hours before departure. Once approved, authorizations are generally valid for multiple entries into the U.S. for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires or other specific circumstances give rise to a need to reapply, whichever comes first.

The Department of Homeland Security administers the VWP. The program enables eligible nationals of 36 VWP designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Additional information regarding the VWP is available here. Frequently asked questions about the VWP and ESTA are available here.