Travel to the USA: all the entry procedures

Finding out about the formalities for entering the country is an integral part of planning a future trip.

So to help you go with peace of mind, I have made a summary of the documents you will need for your trip to the U.S.


U.S. entry requirements related to Covid-19

Entering the United States and Covid-19

Since the reopening of the U.S. borders, all travellers who are not United States citizens or permanent residents must be fully vaccinated to be allowed entry to the U.S., unless they have obtained an exemption.

You will therefore need to show your proof of vaccination, as well as the documents listed in the second part of this article, to enter the U.S.

Vaccination requirements for entering the U.S.

Adult aged 18 and over

  • Fully vaccinated: you must have received two doses of an accepted vaccine, at least two weeks before your trip. One dose if you were vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.

Child aged 2 to 17

  • If fully vaccinated: the child has received two doses of an accepted vaccine, at least two weeks before your trip. One dose if vaccinated with Johnson & Johnson/Janssen.
  • If not fully vaccinated or unvaccinated: you must make an appointment to have your child tested 3-5 days after arrival in the United States. If the child tests positive for Covid-19 or develops Covid-19 symptoms, they must isolate for 5 days and wear a mask for an additional 5 days after ending isolation.

Baby aged 0 to 1

  • No vaccination requirement

Travellers exempt from vaccination

In very rare cases, travelers who have obtained an exemption from vaccination may travel to the United States. To find out if you fall into this category, please check the conditions in the "exceptions" section on the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention website.


Required documents and procedures to enter the U.S.

aerial view of New York
The documents you need to enter the United States

:fleche: emoji Passport

The first thing to do is to verify that you have a valid biometric or electronic passport.

You have probably heard that your passport must be valid six months beyond the period of your intended stay in the U.S., but there is a good chance that this law does not apply to you. 

In fact, countries that are "Six Month Club Members" such as the UK, Ireland, Australia and Canada for example, are exempt from this six-month rule. You will find the complete list of exempt countries by clicking here. Citizens of the countries indicated on this list need only show a valid passport, covering the duration of their stay in the U.S.

That said, I still recommend that you have a passport that is valid beyond the duration of your intended stay in the U.S. If you need to be hospitalized in the USA for a long period of time, for example, this will help you avoid administrative problems in addition to health concerns.

In closing, you need to bring your original passport with you when you travel.

Obviously, a photocopy will not be enough to travel to the U.S., but I still advise you to make copies of your passports before leaving for your trip to the U.S. In the event of loss or theft, it will be much easier to get assistance.


:fleche: emoji Do I need a visa to enter the United States?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 40 countries, including the United Kingdom, to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of 90 days or less without a visa.

Click here for the list of Visa Waiver Program countries.

This exemption does not mean that you don't need to apply for an ESTA, which is mandatory.




:fleche: emoji ESTA

Since January 12, 2009, citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries are required to apply for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) in order to travel to the United States.

The ESTA allows you to enter the country as a tourist for 90 days or less, without a visa.

The only place to apply is on the official website of the Department of Homeland Security. Click on the top right corner to translate the page and complete the form in a different language. The ESTA is valid for 2 years or until your passport expires, if it expires in less than 2 years.

You must apply at least 72 hours before your departure. I recommend you do it as soon as you start planning your trip to the U.S. 

Check out our article The ESTA in 5 easy steps for detailed instructions on how to apply.

RESTRICTIONS FOR CERTAIN CATEGORIES OF TRAVELLERS:  Nationals of VWP countries as mentioned above who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since March 1, 2011, or who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan or Syria, are not eligible to use the ESTA. Such travellers must apply for a visa. In addition, if you have visited Cuba since January 12, 2021, you will also need a visa to enter the United States.
For more details, you can refer to this U.S. Customs and Border Protection page.


:fleche: emoji Return ticket

Do not enter the United States with only a one-way ticket.

You must show a round-trip airline ticket or a cruise ticket (proving your exit from the U.S. territory, regardless of the place of entry and exit).


:fleche: emoji Proof of solvency

The last thing you need to bring with you when travelling to the United States is proof of solvency. For this, you will need to show a credit card or chequebook in your name. 


Entering the US by land

passing through USA customs
The documents you need to enter the United States by land or sea

Planning to enter the United States by land after your trip to Canada or Mexico? You will need basically the same official documents as when you arrive by air.

Indeed, since October 1, 2022, an ESTA is required to enter the United States by land. The documents mentioned in the section above are therefore required.

If you're crossing the border by car and you are the driver, you will be asked to show your driver's license, the car registration and proof of liability insurance.

The information in this article is subject to change. To be sure you have the latest information, I suggest you visit the website of your country's U.S. Embassy before you leave.


Now you know all about the documents required for your trip to the United States!

If you have any question, feel free to leave a comment in the space below. 


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