The Southwest in detail

Entry & Exit Formalities

US entry requirements continue to change. All travelers should double-check current visa and passport regulations well before coming to the USA.


Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days for countries in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) required (apply online in advance).

Further Information

Getting into the US can be complicated and the entry requirements continue to change. Plan ahead. For up-to-date information about visas and immigration, start with the US State Department.

  • Apart from most Canadian citizens and those entering under the VWP, all foreign visitors to the US need a visa. Pursuant to VWP requirements, citizens of certain countries may enter the US for stays of 90 days or fewer without a US visa. This list is subject to continual reexamination and bureaucratic rejigging. Check to see which countries are included under the waiver and for a summary of current VWP requirements.
  • If you are a citizen of a VWP country you do not need a visa only if you have a passport that meets current US standards and you get approval from the ESTA in advance. Register online with the Department of Homeland Security at at least 72 hours before arrival. The fee is $14. Canadians are currently exempt from ESTA.
  • Visitors from VWP countries must still present at the port of entry all the same evidence as for a nonimmigrant visa application. They must demonstrate that their trip is for 90 days or fewer and that they have a round-trip or onward ticket, adequate funds to cover the trip and binding obligations abroad.
  • Every foreign visitor entering the USA from abroad needs a passport. In most cases, your passport must be valid for at least another six months after you are due to leave the USA. If your passport doesn't meet current US standards you'll be turned back at the border.