If you are thinking about visiting the USA for travel purposes or use it for transit to travel elsewhere, there are some things you need to know.
Traveling to the US has a lot to do with the legal side of it because the US has some pretty strict rules in place when it comes to people entering their country.
Of course, it might seem like all of this takes away the freedom to travel and experience the world.
However, there is a good reason why these laws are in place. Which means you have to know them if you want to travel to the USA and keep yourself out of any trouble!
At the end of the day, it is not that hard to deal with the legal side of traveling to the USA if you know exactly what to do and how to do it. And this is exactly why we encourage people like you to take their time and learn everything they need to know about the legal aspects of visiting the USA.
Without further ado, let’s just jump right into it and look at the five most important factors affecting your next visit to the US.
Make sure your passport is valid
Of course, this is one of those things that everyone already knows, right?
Not exactly, because there is still a significant number of travelers who have to change their plans at the very last minute, just because they had failed to make sure their passports are still valid. And as you might have guessed, there is no way to enter the USA legally, without a valid passport.
What is more, when looking at your passport validity, there is more than just having it valid until you enter the US! Depending on what travel authorization you are using, it needs to be valid at least until the time of planned return.
End this is where it gets interesting. I will get to travel authorization in a second, but you also have to keep in mind this. When you are renewing your passport, you also have to obtain new travel authorization and register for it using your new passport.
This is yet another reason why many travelers fail to visit the US as planned and are left behind after the plane takes off.
Travel authorization: VISA
We all have heard about Visa. And yes, for the most part, it is still the way to go when looking for authorized travel to the USA.
This is what you need to know. Obtaining a Visa takes time and if there are any problems with your documentation, your background or criminal history, it might take a couple of months until you get your Visa ready. What is more, there is a good chance that you are not granted a Visa at all!
So before you make plans on your dream trip to the US, get your Visa ready and do that by returning to the previous thing we talked about. Checking your passport validity!
Also, keep in mind that the fact that you have a valid passport and that you have obtained a Visa does not give you guarantee, that you will be allowed to enter the US.
Travel authorization: ESTA
Travel authorization is needed for everyone who plans on visiting the USA. However, the form of travel authorization might be different for some of you travelers.
If you are a citizen of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries and you plan on traveling the US or to use it for transit, you don’t need to apply for a Visa. Instead, you will have to obtain an ESTA.
Which is also a form of travel authorization, but has been designed to make travel easier for citizens of some specific countries.
How is it different?
Well, first of all, the whole application process has been greatly simplified and you can apply for your ESTA online. If everything is good with the documentation you have provided and there are no problems with your background or criminal history, you will receive your ESTA application in a couple of days. It might take longer depending on the situation.
However, ESTA will only be valid if you plan on visiting the US for no longer than 90 days and again, you have to have a valid passport until the time you return from your trip.
Also, just as in the case with obtaining a Visa, the fact that you have your ESTA approved and you hold a valid passport does not mean you will 100% be granted an entry into the USA.
Your background and criminal history
Ok, so this does not directly relate to something you need to do before traveling. However, it is highly important!
If you want to be a traveler who visits different places all the time and USA as a cutural destination is on your list, don’t make foolish mistakes that could get you in trouble with the police.
This is one of the best ways to either get your Visa or ESTA application denied or if you already have the needed form of travel authorization, this could get your entry into the USA denied even with all the needed documentation being in place.
Background checks are a significant part of what security specialists are looking at before making the decision to approve or deny entry into the USA for all individuals.
Don’t stay longer than your travel authorization allows
Be smart with planning out your trip because whatever happens, you don’t want to be staying longer than allowed.
There are two main reasons for that are:
- Number one, you might get in trouble and officers could hold you up for questioning.
- And number two, you most likely won’t be granted entry into the US in the future.
So whatever you have to do and what your plans out, be sure to get the most out of your travel experience on time, because you don’t want to ruin your background for future visits of the amazing country.