Many people are perplexed by US entry rules and regulations, which are some of the strictest in the world. If you aren’t certain what travel authorisation you need for a trip to the US, read through this guide to find out what kind of permission you need to arrange before you travel. Whatever travel permissions you need to obtain, it’s really important to plan well in advance as making arrangements can take some time.
If you’re wondering “do I need a visa for America?” then you need to ask yourself these questions:
– Do I have a passport for a visa waiver country?
– Am I staying fewer than 90 days?
– Am I certain that I won’t need to extend my stay?
– Is my passport a modern, machine-readable passport?
If you answered YES to all of these questions, then the good news is you don’t need to get a full visa for the US. Instead you can travel using the ESTA system, which allows you to travel to the States for up to 90 days for business or leisure. The only other requirement is that you have to be from a visa waiver country. ESTA is easier to apply for than a full US visa and can be arranged in a shorter period of time.
The US department of homeland security maintains a list of around 35-40 countries whose citizens are permitted to travel to the US without obtaining a full visa. People holding passports from these countries can travel to the US on an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) number provided that they meet certain criteria such as having a modern machine-readable passport. Countries on the visa waiver list do change, mostly due to political reasons, so it’s worth keeping an eye on it to see if it affects your situation. At present countries on the list include a lot of countries in Europe, as well as Australia and New Zealand, Iceland and Japan.
ESTA, or the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, is a system used by the US authorities to pre-vet visitors before they depart on their journey to the US. You’ll need to apply at least 72 hours before your trip to the US so that you have the ESTA number you need in order to embark on your plane or boat trip.
We can help you through your ESTA application to ensure you get it right first time. You’ll need to have some details to hand, such as your passport number and the details of your trip. We offer a checking service to ensure you’ve included all the important details when you send your application off to the US authorities.
For obvious reasons, the Department of Homeland Security isn’t as keen for you to visit the US if you’ve previously fallen foul of the visa and ESTA rules. You can also experience difficulties if you have previously been found ineligible for a US visa. If you aren’t sure of your situation, speak to one of our advisors. As part of the check and application service which we offer travellers to the US, we can advise what the best approach is for you to take.
The immigration authorities may also insist that you can demonstrate your intention to leave within the 90 day visitor period permitted by your ESTA. This may mean you need to be able to show you have a return ticket booked within three months of your arrival. Because ESTA doesn’t give you permission to work in the US, you also need to demonstrate that you can support yourself without working during this period or that someone else is meeting your expenses. It’s also necessary to have a valid passport for the full duration of your stay plus at least six months extra. If your passport is close to expiry, you’ll need to renew it ahead of your trip. It’s also necessary for you to be travelling in an approved manner by either air or sea.
It’s very important to apply early for permission to travel to the US well in advance. You can apply from about six months before you are due to travel, and you have to do so a minimum of 72 hours before departure. If you need help to ensure a smooth ESTA application, use our checking service to ensure you don’t experience any delays with your application. It’s the most hassle-free way to arrange your authority to travel.