Keeping up with the constant changes to US entry requirements since 9/11 can sometimes feel like a hopeless task. Seemingly every few months, the American government announces new restrictions on foreign entry into the country, adding considerable to the red tape involved in visiting. Nonetheless, there are several basic rules that apply to these requirements, which are detailed (and should be frequently checked for updates) on the US State Department website.
Under the Visa Waiver Program, if you’re a citizen of the UK, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, most Western European states, or other selected countries like Singapore, Japan and Brunei (27 in all), and visiting the United States for less than 90 days, you need an onward or return ticket, a Machine Readable Passport (MRP), and a visa waiver form.
The Visa Waiver form will be provided by the airline, and must be presented to immigration on arrival. The same form covers entry across the US borders with Canada and Mexico. If you’re under the Visa Waiver Program and intend to work, study, or stay for more than 90 days, you must apply for a regular visa through your local US embassy or consulate. UK citizens must apply in person at the US Embassy in London.
Canadian citizens, who have not always needed a passport to get into the US, should have their passport on them when entering the country. If you’re planning on staying for more than 90 days, then you should apply for a visa.
Citizens of all other countries should contact their local US embassy or consulate for details of current entry requirements, as they are often required to have both a valid passport and a non-immigrant visitor’s visa. To obtain such visa, complete the application form available through your local American Embassy or consulate, and send it with the appropriate fee, 2 photographs, and a passport – valid for 6 months from the end of your planned stay.
For further information or to get a visa extension before your time is up, contact the nearest US Citizenship and Immigration Service office, whose address will be at the front of the phone book, under the Federal Government Office listings.