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Travel to the USA — entry requirements and arrival (Visa, ESTA Visa Waiver, VWP, Customs)

Travel to the USA - entry requirements and arrival
Travel to the USA – entry requirements and arrival

Advisories & Information for Travel to the USA

Find information and advisories on the official website of the U.S. State Department: Travel (state.gov)

Travel to the United States of America

This article gives you a brief summary of the process and provides weblinks to the official websites of the government where you find the most up-to-date information and details.

All persons traveling to the USA need to determine if a visa is required or if they could make use of the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) which enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. VWP information and link can be found further below.

If a person is not eligible for entering the U.S.A. under the VWP program they can apply for a visa. Find all the information to start the process her: as www.travel.state.gov/ .

Arrival: All persons arriving at a port-of-entry to the United States are subject to inspection by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers.  CBP officers will conduct the Immigration, Customs and Agriculture components of the Inspections process.

Travel Documents: Travelers should have appropriate passports and any other associated travel documents ready when approaching a CBP officer for processing or visiting a foreign country.  Find out more information about approved travel documents for entry into the U.S. as well as country specific information (http://www.travel.state.gov/) .

U.S. Customs

In order to clear the U.S. customs without problems you should be familiar with what you can bring and what is prohibited. Especially with food products many travelers get into problems.
The following link to CBP’s website can help to get detailed information: www.cbp.gov/travel/clearing-cbp
Check out also their information page: Know before you visit with info links regarding ‘bringing medication’ and ‘bringing pets’: www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/know-before-you-visit

Visa Waiver Program & ESTA – for Temporary Visitors to the U.S.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas.

VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. A list of countries can be found on the official website of CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection).

VWP travelers are required to apply for authorization though the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), are screened at their port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.

Tip: Apply ONLY on the official U.S. Government website for ESTA, see link and info further below. ESTA costs $21.oo (rev. March-2023).

The official ESTA website URL ends in .GOV; everything else are private websites who charge higher fees and sometimes do not deliver results.

An approved ESTA travel authorization is:

  • valid for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first;
  • valid for multiple entries into the U.S.; and
  • not a guarantee of admissibility to the United States at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the U.S. under the VWP. In all cases, CBP officers make admissibility determinations at our ports of entry.

Official Websites:

Overall, a good starting point to find information is on the CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection) website: www.cbp.gov/travel

Quick links to information

VWP information by CBP (U.S. Customs and Border Protection): www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/visa-waiver-program

VWP information by DHS (Dept of Homeland Security): www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program-requirements

ESTA information and official link provided by CBP: www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta

ESTA official U.S. Government website: Official ESTA Application Website, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/)

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