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Anyone visiting the United States should research the requirements for entry into the country well in advance of the date of travel. Passport holders from EU countries and others such as Australia, South Korea, Japan, and a few others, have a visa waiver for a stay of up to 90 days. Travellers from all other countries must apply for, and be in possession of, a tourist visa to enter the U.S.

U.S. Visa Waiver Program

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program applies to nationals of 38 countries. These passport holders simply need to complete a screening and application through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Once approved, travellers will be granted entry into the U.S. for a business or tourist stay of up to 90 days. Visitors may apply for their ESTA approval as soon as they begin planning a trip and up to 72 hours before their flight.

All ESTA applicants must have a machine-readable e-Passport with a digital photograph. Once the application form is submitted online, a response will be generated by the system almost instantly. If authorisation is refused, a visa application should be filed at the nearest American consulate or embassy. If an answer is pending, the final response should be sent within 72 hours. Any applicant can monitor the progress of their file on the ESTA website. Fees may apply.

 Good to know: Visa exemption applies for citizens from: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.

Other visitors to the U.S.

If you’re not a citizen from one of the countries listed above, you must visit a United States embassy or consulate in your home country and apply for a nonimmigrant visa. Temporary visitors for business reasons should apply for a B-1 visa and all others for a B-2 type visa. All applicants are required to have a passport valid for at least six months beyond the period of stay, a Nonimmigrant Visa Application (Form DS-160), a passport-sized photo according to U.S. requirements, and pay a $160 application fee. Applicants are also required to schedule and attend a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in the country of application. At this appointment, a consular officer will tell you if additional documents are required, if your visa is approved, and how your passport will be returned to you.

Before arrival in the United States, the airline will provide you with a Form I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Upon arrival at U.S. customs, the immigration officer will collect your form, detach the coupon and attach it to your passport. When entering the U.S., you have to submit your fingerprints and have your picture digitised by the immigration services. If you refuse, you will not be allowed to enter the country.

 Important: Do not lose the I-94. You will need to return it upon leaving the U.S.

If your final U.S. departure is by land or seaport, you must send both the I-94 coupon and documentation that you left the United States to the address below.

Coleman Data Solutions
Attn: NIDPS (I-94)
Box 7965
Akron, OH 44306
USA

Travellers exiting the U.S. by air need to retain their I-94 coupon and flight record as all commercial flight traffic is independently verified.

 Useful links:

U.S. Embassies and consulates abroad
U.S. Visa waiver program requirements
Visa waiver program FAQ
U.S. non-ESTA visa application information

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