Passports & visas
Under the US Visa Waiver Program, visas are currently not required for citizens of 27 countries for stays up to 90 days (no extensions allowed) as long as they have a machine-readable passport (MRP). If you don’t have an MRP, you will need a visa to enter the USA.
If you’re getting a new passport, note that requirements are even tighter. Under current regulations, passports issued between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006 must be machine-readable and feature a digital photograph on the data page. Passports issued after October 25, 2006 must be machine-readable and also include an integrated chip with biometric information from the data pages.
If you have a passport issued before October 26, 2005 it will still be accepted for travel as long as it’s machine-readable. In other words, there is no need to get a new passport until your current one expires.
Canadian citizens are technically exempt from both visa and passport requirements but official proof of citizenship with photo ID is necessary. Valid documents include a birth certificate, a citizenship certificate or a passport.
Citizens from all nonvisa-waiver countries need to apply for a visa in their home country. The process costs a nonrefundable $100, involves a personal interview and can take several weeks, so you should apply as early as possible.
Again, we’d like to stress that this information, while accurate at press time, may change. Always get the latest scoop from your nearest US consulate.