United States of America: Visa and Passport Requirements
|Passport required||Return ticket required||Visa required|
To enter the United States of America, a valid passport is required; validity varies - for most countries, the passport must be valid for at least six months from the date on which the holder enters the USA. If not, the holder will be admitted until the expiration date on the passport.
For nationals included in the Visa Waiver Program, passports must be valid for at least 90 days from date of entry.
All travellers entering the USA under the Visa Waiver Program require individual machine-readable passports. Children included on a parent's passport also require their own machine-readable passport. Travellers not in possession of machine-readable passports will require a valid USA entry visa.
Visitors to the USA travelling under the Visa Waiver Program must obtain authorisation from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), a fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the USA, if arriving by air or sea. It is recommended that applications are made at least 72 hours prior to travel but you may apply at any time prior to travel. Airlines must now deny check-in to passengers without valid ESTA. Apply online (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov). There is a US$14 fee.
An ESTA is valid for two years, so if you've applied for one previously, ensure it's still valid.
When applying for ESTA-authorisation and entering the passport number, the number 0 must not be replaced by letter O as this can lead to problems upon entering the USA. The granting of an ESTA does not guarantee entry to the USA.
All persons, including US citizens, travelling by air, land, or sea between the USA and Canada, Central and South America, the Caribbean and Bermuda are required to present a valid passport, or other approved document, when entering or re-entering the USA.
Visas are not required by nationals referred to in the chart above for stays of up to 90 days, except:
1. Nationals of Bulgaria, Cyprus, Poland and Romania, who do require a visa as they are not included in the Visa Waiver Program.
Countries are occasionally added to the Visa Waiver Program; check the US Department of State's website for recent additions (http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1990.html#countries).
Landed immigrants of Canada and British residents of Bermuda who are citizens of, and have valid passports from, Commonwealth countries or Ireland are not eligible to enter the USA without a visa.
All passengers using US airports for transit purposes are required to obtain a transit visa. This does not affect qualified travellers travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program.
To qualify for visa-free travel under the Visa Waiver Program, nationals must travel on a valid passport, for holiday, transit or business purposes only and for a stay not exceeding 90 days.
Holders of UK passports with the endorsement British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Protected Person, British Overseas Citizen or British National (Overseas) Citizen do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program. A passport which states holder has right of abode or indefinite leave to remain in the UK does not qualify for visa-free travel.
A visa does not expire with the expiry of the holder's passport. An unexpired, endorsed visa in an expired passport may be presented for entry into the USA, as long as the visa itself has not been cancelled, is undamaged, is less than 10 years old and is presented with a valid non-expired passport, provided that both passports are for the same nationality.
Nationals of countries not referred to in the chart above are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements.
Types and cost:
Tourist, business, transit and student: US$160.
Visas may be used for travel to the USA until the date of expiry as long as presented with a valid passport. Some visas are valid for multiple entries. The length of stay in the USA is determined by US immigration officials at the time of entry.
According to the US Department of State, travellers who are visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program do not require a transit visa. Citizens of Bermuda, Canada, Mexico, and the commonwealths and territories of the USA also do not require a transit visa.
Embassy or consulate.
The USA does not participate in the Schengen visa scheme.
Typically, temporary residence must be applied for in the individual's home country at the local US embassy or consulate.
Varies widely - check with embassy/consulate for current processing times. The US Embassy in the UK takes around three days to process nonimmigrant visas.
US Customs and Border Protection requires that visitors from abroad substantiate they have sufficient funds to enter the USA. The amount is not a fixed number, however, and does not have to be solely in cash; credit cards, traveller's cheques and other currency equivalents are considered. For more information, check the USCBP's website (www.cbp.gov).
Extension of stay:
Citizens of visa waiver countries may not apply to extend their stay. Citizens of other countries must file a request with US Citizenship and Immigration Services using Form I-539; the form must be submitted prior to the expiration of the original visa.
Entry with children:
Children travelling with adults who are not their legal guardians and/or who are travelling with one parent rather than both parents will require a signed and notarised letter from the legal guardian(s) indicating that permission has been granted to leave their country of citizenship and enter the USA. If a single parent has sole custody, he or she must bring a court custody document to substantiate this.
Entry with pets:
Dogs and cats may enter the USA provided that you have a current certificate of health signed by a veterinarian in your home country, as well as proof of vaccinations. Many animals are not allowed to be brought into the USA; a complete list can be found on the Customs and Border Protection's website (www.cbp.gov).