If you are planning a trip to the USA, you need to prepare well. We will answer the most important questions - from the ESTA application to the procedures at the airport to importing goods into the United States.
Since October 2022, you must apply for an ESTA to enter the USA by land! This means that uniform regulations now apply to all travelers - regardless of which means of transport they use to come to the USA.
Submit your ESTA application now to travel to the USA visa-free!
Before you are allowed to travel to the United States, you must prove to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that you meet all the criteria for visitors to the United States.
Therefore, you will be asked to provide different data when booking your flight, when applying for your travel authorization (e.g., ESTA or US visa), and when crossing the border at the airport.
This pre-entry data check verifies you meet the following entry requirements for the United States:
In addition, you must meet all the requirements associated with your type of travel or residence permit. This can be, for example, a place of study in the USA if you enter with a student visa (F-1 visa) or a letter of invitation from a company if you are transferred to the USA and enter with an L visa. There are also special requirements for traveling with ESTA.
If you prefer to use the faster and cheaper ESTA to travel visa-free, you will save time and money, but you must also meet the ESTA requirements. These are:
The ESTA electronic travel authorization is cheaper, easier, and faster to get than a US visa. Instead of the triple-digit amounts charged by embassies and consulates for visas, you pay only a small service fee for an ESTA and receive your approval by email within a few hours.
Additional ESTA benefits come from ESTA services, such as the money-back guarantee, multilingual customer service, and enhanced security checks by The American Dream's USA experts.
For your entry into the US, prepare a folder with the essential documents that you can present when speaking with US border patrol agents. The following documents should be in your collection:
Please note that when entering the USA, the information in your ESTA authorization must exactly match the data in your passport. Therefore, if you apply for a new passport after receiving your electronic travel authorization, you must also submit a new ESTA application!
The final decision about your entry permit is made by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer at the respective entry point in the United States. You can, therefore, be refused entry at any time without giving reasons.
In addition to your ESTA application, you must leave your data and details of your trip with your airline or shipping company. For this purpose, you will be provided with various forms via a weblink when booking your trip, which you must complete online before starting your trip to the USA.
Your airline is required to provide your personal information and your first address of residence in the US to the authorities. Therefore, you will be asked to provide information through an online form during the booking process.
Secure Flight is a US Transportation Security Administration (TSA) program for reporting passenger data. Your airline requests personal information such as date of birth, gender, and passport information. Secure Flight is required in addition to APIS.
Due to entry requirements related to the COVID-19 pandemic, you may still be required to provide information about your immunization status before entering the United States. It is recommended that you print out the form, including all proof of immunizations, and carry it with you throughout your trip.
Your date of entry and the date of your latest departure will be recorded by CBP in an electronic entry form, which you can view on the CBP website. When you enter the country, check whether the border guards have calculated your maximum stay period correctly and have the date of arrival corrected if necessary.
Be prepared to file a customs declaration (CBP Form 6059B) when entering the US, to declare goods, currency, and food you bring into the US.
The US customs declaration is used for clearances of valuables and US biosecurity. It is usually done electronically at passport control. Paper forms are rarely seen anymore.
Before entering the USA, find out about the current entry and import regulations for the United States. In particular, bringing food, stimulants, cash, medicines, pets, and weapons is strictly regulated.
Do you have all the travel documents and your ESTA approval for your trip to the USA? Then you are ready to go! You will go through the following steps:
Digital check-in works up to 40 minutes before departure. Find out more about this on the website of your airline.
Some airlines request APIS information only at check-in. Often, however, this is done directly after booking together with the TSA data for the Secure Flight Program. In any case, you will need to complete the online form before you enter the US.
Be at the airport early to check-in your luggage in time, even if there are long queues. At the counter, you will present your passport and get your boarding pass.
The security check may take a little longer depending on the airport, current travel volume, international security situation, and your flight route. A second security check is also possible, to which you might be escorted, thanks to a (possibly handwritten) note on your boarding pass (SSSS = Secondary Security Screening Selection).
During the SSSS, the hand luggage is thoroughly searched, and the passenger is scanned and questioned in detail. Do not let this routine check upset you, and answer briefly and precisely.
The US customs declaration paper form has been officially abolished for environmental reasons and replaced by the electronic declaration at passport control (e.g., at the APC machine). However, paper forms are still occasionally sighted on flights and in arrival halls.
As an ESTA traveler, Green Card holder, or Global Entry Program member, you can use automated passport control at many airports in the United States. If you are eligible for APC, you will be prompted to scan your passport, take a photo and answer a series of questions. The passport control machine will then throw out a receipt for you to present to the officers at the counter along with your passport.
The border official at the airport makes the final decision about your entry into the USA. If you have answered his questions truthfully and confidently, he will put the appropriate entry stamp in your passport without hesitation.
Check the date briefly and compare it with the validity period of your ESTA to avoid problems when leaving the country. You should also take a quick look at the digital I-94 entry form on the CBP website to have the latest departure date corrected if necessary.
United States Customs and Border Protection officers are tasked with protecting the homeland security of the United States by deterring potential threats from international travelers. Therefore, they will ask you some questions regarding the reason for your travel and your plans within the USA.
Here are some possible questions a CBP officer might ask you:
As an ESTA traveler, do not make it seem like you intend to do anything in the US other than the activities allowed under ESTA (tourism, business travel, medical treatment, or transit).
If you are entering on a US visa, answer according to the purpose of your visa. In any case, stick to the truth and answer briefly and accurately.
With these tips, your entry into the USA will be stress-free:
Despite good preparation, a US border agent may not let you into the United States. There are many reasons for such a denial of entry. The following circumstances can lead to a refusal at the US border:
Two of the most common reasons for denied US entry are incomplete documentation and errors in the ESTA application. However, border patrol agents do not have to tell you the reason for denied entry.
Your options are now limited to contacting the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to request information and assistance in the Traveler Redress Inquiry Program (TRIP) upon your return to your home country.
After being refused entry at the US border, you are no longer eligible for visa-free travel with ESTA for the time being. For future entries, you must apply for a US visa at the embassy or consulate.
To prevent rejections at the border, entry bans, and unpleasant situations in the run-up to your trip to the USA, get the help of an ESTA expert. With ESTA services from The American Dream, you're on the safe side.