Passport, Visa and other U.S. Customs Information
Even though international travelers are subject to tougher security measures than in previous years, as long as you know what documentation is required, you shouldn't have any trouble going through U.S. Customs.
The main requirements to enter the United States are a valid passport and a visa. This holds true for all foreign visitors coming into the country by air, sea or land.
The Visa Waiver Program
In the interest of promoting friendship, tourism and cooperation, the U.S. State Department created the "Visa Waiver Program" (VWP) with thirty-six nations participating. (See listing below.)
Visa Waiver Program - Participating Countries
If you are a national of one of the countries listed, you can skip the visa requirement and instead apply online to "The Electronic System for Travel Authorization" (ESTA). To complete the application, click here.
It is very important that you acquaint yourself with all the requirements for obtaining a waived visa exemption. Please click here for more information.
When a Visa is Required
If you are traveling to the United States and your country of origin is not one of the participating members of the VWP, you will need to apply for a non-immigrant visa. You will be required to complete a new “DS-160” form and will need to visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country for an interview.
The new DS-160 can be accessed online here.
For up-to-the minute visa information at the U.S. State Department’s website click here.
To view a listing of all United States Embassies and Consulates in the world, click here.
Before you land in the United States, you will be provided with either a white Form I-94W (Arrival/Departure Record), or a green Form I-94W (Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form). You will also need to complete Customs Declaration Form 6059B.
These forms merely ask basic information about you, where you will be staying in the United States during your visit and what, if anything, you have to declare.
What Else to Expect
Once you have arrived in the country, you will be shown to the inspection area where an immigration officer will go over your documents, determine why you are visiting the United States, and determine how long you will be allowed to stay. This usually takes less than one minute. If all is in order, the officer will stamp your passport and will staple the completed Form I-94W to your passport. You will collect your baggage and then proceed through Customs.
For complete details on what to expect upon arrival to the United States, click here.