Every year, thousands of travelers are denied entry at the US border due to avoidable mistakes. To ensure this doesn't happen to you, we gathered the most important rules for entering the United States and give you helpful tips for crossing the border.
ESTA travelers enjoy a number of advantages over visa travelers. These include faster, easier, and significantly less expensive travel authorization, as well as the opportunity for expedited passport inspection and, therefore, faster entry into the United States.
However, these ESTA benefits come with conditions: you must be a citizen of one of the 41 Visa Waiver countries, you may not work or study in the United States, and your stay is limited to 90 days at a time.
Upon arrival, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials will want to determine whether you will adhere to these strict ESTA restrictions during your time in the United States and whether you may pose a threat to US homeland security.
To avoid problems at the entry interview, be prepared for possible questions from the U.S. Border Patrol agents. These may include the purpose and duration of your stay in the United States, your travel itinerary, or the people you will be visiting in the United States. Be truthful and brief in your answers.
Also, have your complete travel documents ready in case officials ask for additional proof of your statements. A complete border-crossing document kit includes your return or onward flight tickets and proof of ties to your home country, which may also support your desire to return.
It is essential to be courteous and cooperative during the interview and to provide all documents and information requested. This may include the contents of electronic devices. Therefore, make sure that there is no problematic content on your laptop or cell phone, such as illegal photos, videos, or sensitive documents.
It's surprising how many travelers get turned away at the US border because they show up with an expired ESTA. Nevertheless, there is a practical way to avoid this standard entry error: take advantage of the convenient online ESTA reminder service. Shortly before your 1- or 2-year ESTA validity expires (depending on your citizenship), you will receive a notification with the appropriate recommended actions.
The validity of your passport also plays an important role when entering the United States. You can only complete your ESTA application with a valid e-passport (biometric electronic passport). And there are even differences in the minimum validity:
If you want to avoid both the bureaucratic hurdles of applying for an ESTA and the lines at immigration and passport control, get a Green Card!
The US Immigrant Visa allows you unlimited entry and permanent residence in the United States for life. You can enjoy almost all the benefits of being a US citizen and even work in the US.
The easiest way to get a Green Card is through the US government's annual Green Card Lottery, where 55,000 US immigrant visas are raffled off to participants from all over the world.
When packing for a trip to the United States, you need to know what items, goods, and substances are prohibited from entering. Be sure to check the current import regulations for the US and follow the maximum limits for carry-on items.
Certain documents are not recommended to carry. These include employment references or other documents that may raise suspicion of illegal employment, immigration, or criminal intent in the eyes of US Border Patrol agents.
During the ESTA application process, you will be asked about contagious and difficult-to-treat diseases that could pose a risk to other travelers. You will also be asked if you are addicted to drugs. In addition, US border officials will closely monitor your behavior as you enter the country and check any medications you are carrying.
International travel is experiencing more and more delays due to understaffed airports, tour operators cutting corners, and increasingly frequent storms. But that's just the end of a chain of travel planning hurdles. Even when applying for your travel authorization, unforeseen events can occur.
For example, if you have to switch to a visa because of problems with your ESTA application, you must plan for a few more weeks. Therefore, submit your ESTA application several weeks before your departure and always with the help of an expert.
In addition, current decisions by the US government may affect the requirements for entry into the United States. Examples from the past include the sudden implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination requirement, the exclusion of certain nationals from the ESTA program, or the temporary suspension of entry for travelers who have previously visited certain countries.
If you follow our rules for entering the United States, you will avoid common traveler mistakes and enjoy a carefree stay in the USA! However, be prepared to adjust your plans in case of an emergency and to react to unexpected delays or changes in regulations. We wish you a joyful journey!