• For current information about the USA’s entry requirements for travelers, access the Visa section of the US State Department (www.travel.state.gov) website and also the Travel section of the US Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov) website. The Department of Homeland Security’s registration program (DHS; www.dhs.gov), called Office of Biometric Identity Management, includes every port of entry and covers nearly every foreign visitor to the USA. Most visitors must register into the US-Visit program and have a digital photo and electronic (inkless) fingerprints taken; the process takes less than a minute. For more information, see the Department of Homeland Security website.
  • Depending on your home country, you may not need a visa. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain countries to enter the USA for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a US visa. There are 38 countries currently participating, including Australia, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK. For a full list of countries and details log onto the State Department’s website.
  • Under the VWP you must have a return ticket (or an onward ticket to any foreign destination) that’s non-refundable in the US.
  • All VWP travelers must register online at least 72 hours before arrival with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA; https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov), which currently costs $14. Once approved, registration is valid for two years (or until your passport expires).
  • With the exception of Canadians and visitors who qualify for the VWP, foreign visitors to the USA need a visa. To apply, you need a passport that’s valid for at least six months longer than your intended stay. The process is not free, involves a personal interview and can take several weeks.
  • Visa applicants may be required to ‘demonstrate binding obligations’ that will ensure their return home. Because of this requirement, those planning to travel through other countries before arriving in the USA are better off applying for their US visa in their home country rather than on the road.
  • The validity period for a US visitor visa depends on your home country. The actual length of time you’ll be allowed to stay in the USA is determined by US officials at the port of entry.

Customs Regulations

  • Currently each international visitor (21 years of age or older) is allowed to bring 1L of liquor and 200 cigarettes into the USA. You may also bring in up to $100 worth of gift merchandise without incurring any duty. For more complete, up-to-date information, visit the US Customs and Border Protection (www.cbp.gov) website.
  • Hawaii is a rabies-free state and there are strict regulations regarding the importation of pets, so don’t plan on bringing your furry friend on a short vacation.
  • Many fresh fruits and plants cannot be brought into Hawaii. For complete details, visit the Hawaii Department of Agriculture (http://hawaii.gov/hdoa) website.


  • A machine-readable passport (MRP) is required for all foreign citizens to enter the USA.
  • Your passport must be valid for six months beyond your expected dates of stay in the US.
  • As of April 1, 2016, you must have an e-passport to enter into the Visa Waiver Program. E-passports contain an electronic chip that is scanned upon arrival to identify the traveler.


Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days for citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries.