Are you planning a trip to the USA, but have no idea what you have to consider when entering the USA? We felt the same way and would have been happy about some helpful tips and information beforehand. For this reason I have summarized here a few tips and information for the entry into the USA, which can be helpful for persons, who enter the USA for the first time.
Information for the entry into the USA
Before you go to the land of unlimited possibilities, you have to be clear about a few things. Since the entry has been intensified in the last years, you have to pay attention to some things. Entering the USA can be a bit tricky and you might have heard some horror stories about it in the past. With the following information for the entry into the USA you are in any case well advised.
EU citizens must meet these requirements to enter the USA:
- Valid electronic passport
- Travel duration maximum 90 days
- return or onward flight ticket must be available
Esta travel permit
Observe flight regulations / baggage / hand baggage regulations
Devices with an empty battery may not be taken on board the aircraft when flying from Europe. Make sure that your equipment is sufficiently charged, a power bank can also be helpful here.
Do not close the case! Do not lock your suitcases with normal locks, as the luggage is often opened and thoroughly checked by officials. If baggage is locked with a normal security lock, it will be broken open, which can damage the case. If your luggage has been checked, you will find a note with a note in it. If you still don’t want to travel with an unlocked suitcase, you can get the so-called TSA lock, which can be opened by the authorities in the USA with a master key. Check the current baggage regulations shortly before your departure, as they can be changed or tightened at any time.
ESTA Travel Permit
Thanks to the Visa Waiver Program, it is possible for citizens of participating countries to enter the USA without a visa. To participate in the Visa Waiver Program, it is necessary to apply online for an Electronic Travel Authorization (ESTA). The travel authorization should be applied for and paid for at least 72 hours prior to departure. The cost is €29.95 per person and must be paid immediately after completing the form. The form is also available in German and can be completed by anyone without any problems. As soon as the ESTA has been approved, you will receive a confirmation by e-mail and SMS. You can print it out and take it with you, but you don’t have to, because everything is stored electronically. The ESTA is valid for two years from the date of issue and can be used again if you re-enter the country within this period.
Security check before the flight to the USA
The security controls for a trip to the USA are stricter and much more extensive than for trips to other countries. Already at check-in at the airport of departure, your data will be forwarded to the authorities in the USA via APIS and checked. At some tour operators or airlines you will receive a form which you have to fill out and bring with you at check-in. If, like us, you plan to make a round trip in the USA, you must enter the address of the first hotel in which you will check in on this form. We will also check if you have a return or onward ticket at check-in.
When traveling to the USA, all travelers must undergo a security survey by the airlines, which can lead to longer waiting times. There you will be asked questions such as “Who packed your suitcase? Did you pack something for someone? etc.? Due to the waiting times for these interviews, you should be at the airport at least 3 hours before departure.
Entering the USA
A customs declaration is issued in the aircraft and must be completed. In this form you will be asked questions about the import.
After landing in the USA you have to be patient. Officials at the entry counters determine your entry and the queues in front of these counters are usually really long. Once it’s your turn, the officers will check your passport and the electronic entry permit. After that your fingerprints will be taken and a picture of your face will be taken. Now the officer will ask you a few questions about your trip. Reason for the trip? Whereabouts? Hotel? etc. In some cases the officer may want to check your social media channels. Friendliness towards the officials should be a matter of course, because they decide whether you are allowed to enter the country or not! If the officer has decided about your entry, you will get a stamp in your passport with the date when you entered the country and when you have to leave at the latest.