If you’re planning to visit the U.S., you need to know about the documents you’ll need. While most countries have a standard requirement for international travel—the passport—the U.S. has a few more requirements that may affect your trip plans. If you’re not sure what documents you need and how they work, don’t worry! We’ve compiled all of the information here so that you can easily understand what documentation is needed to enter the U.S., when it should be obtained, and how it affects your trip.
- Make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the date you intend to return.
- Your passport must have a photograph that is a true likeness of you, as well as two blank pages (the page with your photograph and all other pages).
- Your passport must be signed by both yourself and a witness who has known you for at least two years.
A U.S. visa is a stamp in your passport that allows you to travel to and enter the United States. You can apply for a visa online, at a U.S. embassy or consulate, or at a U.S. border crossing (such as an airport or seaport)- travel usa.
The easiest way to get a visa is online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). If you don’t meet ESTA requirements, the next best option is applying directly at an embassy or consulate in your home country—don’t worry if there isn’t one nearby; they are found all over Europe and Asia as well as Central and South America—or applying at an international airport when entering the country from abroad via air travel (but not sea/ferry).
Tourist Card / Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). ESTA allows eligible travelers to complete advance planning by authorizing their travel before they depart for the United States. When you go online and apply for your visa waiver permit, you will be asked questions about your visa status, passport and criminal record. You will also be requested to enter biographic information such as your name, address and date of birth.
Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. Citizenship
If you want to travel abroad, or if you want to apply for U.S. citizenship, then you will need a Certificate of Naturalization or U.S. Citizenship.
You can apply for your certificate of citizenship or naturalization at any time after becoming a permanent resident (this is also called getting your green card). You must have been a permanent resident for at least 5 years before applying for citizenship however; otherwise, your application will be denied and you’ll need to wait until the next time that period ends before trying again.
Certificate of Birth Abroad
If you were born outside of the U.S., you will need to submit a Certificate of Birth Abroad issued by the Department of State. If your child was born outside of the U.S., but has at least one parent who is a citizen or permanent resident, he/she requires additional documentation in order to travel with both parents. In this case, you must provide an original certificate from each country where you lived since your child’s birth as well as evidence that he/she obtained citizenship (a passport or naturalization certificate)- travel usa.
Resident Alien Card / Green card / U.S. Permanent Resident Card
The U.S. Permanent Resident Card, also known as a green card or Resident Alien Card, is an identification card issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to people who have been granted permanent residence in the U.S., allowing them to remain in the country indefinitely and work without restrictions on their visa status.
You may need more than just a passport to enter the U.S.
There are other requirements you may need to meet, depending on the type of trip you’re taking.
If your visit is for work or study, you’ll need to make sure that any appropriate visa is in your passport. The U.S Department of State has a comprehensive list of countries and the required documentation for each one- travel usa.
If you’re traveling by land or sea, there’s also another form to consider: the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Every visitor who plans to fly into America must register with ESTA before they arrive. You can apply online at least 72 hours before departure; if approved within 30 minutes, good news! You won’t have to fill out any other paperwork when arriving at the airport.
But if it takes longer than 30 minutes (which often happens), don’t worry: just bring along proof that you’ve already registered with ESTA—either printouts from the website or an email receipt will do fine.
Remember, you can always contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country for more information about traveling to the United States.