What documents do I need to travel to the USA?

The American authorities and the American immigration service are very strict when it comes to illegal immigrants. Unlike the European Schengen area, a valid passport is not sufficient to travel to the USA.

For a stay of less than 90 days in the USA: It is not necessary to apply for a visa. Simply apply for an electronic travel authorization by clicking on the online form.

The passport

Having a valid passport for the USA is one of the essential travel documents. You must have a valid passport that covers your entire planned stay in the USA. If you do not have one, you must apply for a new passport. You cannot ask someone else to do the paperwork for you, as the biometric passport requires your fingerprints. You can also travel to the USA with an electronic passport, as long as it is still valid.

An ESTA or a visa?

You need to determine which travel documents to obtain for travel. This will depend on the length of your stay and why you want to go to the United States of America.

If you want to go there for less than 90 days, you will have to apply for ESTA authorization. The reason for your stay could be to go sightseeing, as your American dream is to visit the beautiful coast of Florida, to visit the majestic national parks of Yosemite, Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon, to see the Statue of Liberty or the Golden Gate Bridge of San Francisco.

If you wish to stay longer (more than three months) you must apply for a visa specific to your situation. You will need to make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy (or U.S. Consulate) to have your visa application reviewed by an officer.

Definition of ESTA

The ESTA for Electronic System for Travel Authorization is an official document issued by the U.S. authorities to allow citizens of certain countries to travel to the U.S. territory without a visa. These countries are part of the Visa Waiver Program, here is the list:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom and Taiwan.

The ESTA is an online application, so you don’t have to go to the U.S. embassy or consulate general to get it, unlike a visa. It is valid for two years and allows its holder to make several temporary stays of up to 90 days.

The stay must be a tourist, transit or business trip in order to be eligible for an ESTA.

To apply for ESTA, you will need to fill out the online form on the official U.S. government website. It is also possible to use a private website that will make the ESTA application for you. They will check the data you have provided about your US travel documents and then send you the ESTA in PDF format to your email address.

Please note that your passport number is directly linked to your ESTA authorization through the electronic systems of the American customs. If your passport has expired, your ESTA authorization will also expire. In this case, you will have to renew your passport and apply for a new ESTA.

Travel advice: the ESTA form is not an authorization to enter the United States, it is an authorization to travel to the United States. When you arrive in the United States, it is still up to the customs officials to decide whether or not you can enter the country. So, to put all the chances on your side, make sure you have a return ticket and travel with one of the airlines recognized by the United States Homeland Security.