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Information about entering the USA

US Customs and Entry Regulations

The information below is designed to make the process of entering the USA as simple as possible for you. If you have any questions or concerns relating to your arrival in the USA which are not answered below, we recommend that you get in contact with your local embassy or consulate in plenty of time before you depart.
You are required to carry your passport with you at all times while in the USA.

The following rules apply with regard to travellers visiting from countries that are members of the USA 'Visa Waiver Programme' (VWP), i.e. where no visa is required for travel up to 90 days in the USA. We have also listet the VWP members further below. Important: see the 'ESTA' regulations which apply to VWP members as of 12 Jan 09.

  • Travellers from VWP countries must present passports that are machine-readable for visa-free entry into the United States.
  • Since 26 Oct 05: Travellers from VWP countries with passports issued on or after this date must present passports with a digital photograph.
  • Since 26 Oct 05: Travellers from VWP countries with a passport issued on or after this date must present a passport with an integrated circuit chip, also known as e-passport, capable of storing biographic information from the passport's data page, a digitised photograph and other biometric information.

To summarise the information above: These requirements apply to new passports issued after 26 Oct 05. Therefore if your passport is valid as of 25 October 2005 or earlier and includes a machine-readable strip, then it is still valid for travel to the United States after the 26 Oct 05 deadline for the lifetime of the passport.

The 27 VWP countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

It is not possible to extend this 90-day visitation in cases such as when your departure is delayed due to unforeseen circumstances. However, if you choose to enter the USA with a visa any office for border protection- the 'INS' can approve an extension of the visit. The last possible day available for you to depart the USA is stamped in your passport ("Admitted until xx-xx-xx). Please note the usual American method of writing the date: The month comes first, followed by the day. E.g. '07-04' is the 4th of July, not the 7th of April.

For travellers from European Union member countries, only the red European passport is permitted. Child ID cards and child entries in parents' passports are also no longer permitted.

Travellers are encouraged to inquire with the airlines and with any country which they intend to visit regarding special requirements for under-age children travelling without parents.

Electronic System for Travel Authorisation

ESTA is short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA - which was introduced on 01 Aug 08 - is an application system for all travelers from Visa Waiver Countries only.

The Visa Waiver Program has made visiting the United States very easy for millions of visitors with a machine readable passport.

Now the same visitors must apply for a Travel Authorization in advance in addition to have a machine readable passport. The application process is online and run by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

The purpose of ESTA is to let DHS pre-screen all Visa Waiver Travelers before they leave their respective countries. US bound travelers are recommended to apply for the Travel Authorization at least 72 hours prior to departure.

The Travel Authorization is not a visa. In fact, a person from a non-visa waiver country should not even attempt to apply for a Travel Authorization.

All ESTA does is to pre-screen a Visa Waiver Traveler and allow him or her to travel to the United States and apply for admission. An approved Travel Authorization is not a guaranteed entry, but a prerequisite to travel to the United States by air or sea carrier.

A couple of important points relating to the ESTA:

  • From 01 Jan 09 onwards the ESTA online registration is compulsory. Prior to that it is optional
  • Each traveler requires his/her own separate application. This applies to small children too
  • An approved ESTA is valud for up to 2 years, unless your passport expires or your name changes within this time frame, at which point a new application is required
  • The ESTA allows you to enter the USA multiple times within the two year time frame

The ESTA can be obtained via the following link: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Please use the following link for more detailed information regarding the ESTA: https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta


All passenger luggage is now checked with special light technology which enables explosives to be found. The Transport Security Administration (TSA) recommends that travellers no longer lock their suitcases, thereby making manual luggage checks smoother for everyone. The TSA has the right to open locked items of luggage - where required, by force. In such cases a note referring to the check that has taken place will be placed in the suitcase. The note also refers to the fact that the TSA is not liable for any damage or loss to items that may have been in the suitcase at the time.

Due to the unique nature of the machines used the TSA recommends a few changes to the way luggage is packed in order to minimise any inconvenience. Gifts should no longer be wrapped and books should only be packed side by side and grocery items should always be packed in your hand luggage. Please refer to your local US embassy website for further information. You can find the link to this site at: https://www.usembassy.gov

Grocery Items

You are not permitted to bring any kinds of meat or fish products into the USA. Products such as bread as well as cheeses that keep for a lenthy period are allowed. Perishable items are subject to the conditions laid out by the American Food and Drug Administration and can be seized by the customs authorities pending a careful analysis of the items if - in their opinion, these represent a possible health risk.


If you take any more than US$ 10,000 either into or out of the USA you are required to complete Form '4790' at the American Customs Authority. This also applies if you are carrying this amount of money on behalf of someone else.