• Double-check current visa and passport requirements before coming to the USA.
  • For current information about entry requirements and eligibility, check the visas section of the US Department of State website and the travel section of the US Customs and Border Protection website.
  • Upon arrival in the USA, most foreign citizens (excluding for now, many Canadians, some Mexicans, all children under age 14 and seniors over age 79) must register with the Department of Homeland Security, which entails having electronic (inkless) fingerprints and a digital photo taken.

Customs Regulations

Currently, each international visitor is allowed to bring into the USA duty-free:

  • 1L of liquor (if you're over 21 years old)
  • 200 cigarettes (1 carton) or 100 cigars (if you're over 18 years old)

Amounts higher than $10,000 in cash, traveler's checks, money orders and other cash equivalents must be declared. For more detailed, up-to-date information, check with US Customs and Border Protection.

Most fresh fruits and plants are restricted from entry into Hawaii (to prevent the spread of invasive species), and customs officials strictly enforce these regulations. Because Hawaii is a rabies-free state, the pet quarantine laws are draconian. Questions? Contact the Hawaii Department of Agriculture.

All checked and carry-on bags leaving Hawaii for the US mainland, Alaska or Guam must be checked by an agricultural inspector at the airport using an X-ray machine. Make sure that any fresh food, produce or flowers in your baggage has been commercially packaged and approved for travel, or else you'll be forced to surrender those pineapples and orchids at the airport. For more information, contact the US Department of Agriculture.

Passports

  • 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 USA.
  • If your passport was issued/renewed after October 26, 2006, you need an 'e-passport' with a digital photo and an integrated chip containing biometric data.

Visas

  • Currently, under the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), visas are not required for citizens of 38 countries for stays up to 90 days (no extensions).
  • Under the VWP program you must have a return ticket (or onward ticket to any foreign destination) that's nonrefundable in the USA.
  • All VWP travelers must register online at least 72 hours before arrival with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, which currently costs $14. Once approved, registration is valid for two years (or until your passport expires, whichever comes first).
  • Canadian citizens are generally admitted visa-free for stays up to 182 days total during a 12-month period; they do not need to register with the ESTA.
  • All other foreign visitors who don't qualify for the VWP and aren't Canadian citizens must apply for a tourist visa. The process costs a nonrefundable fee (minimum $160), involves a personal interview and can take several weeks, so apply early.
  • www.usembassy.gov has links for all US embassies and consulates abroad. You're better off applying for a visa in your home country rather than while on the road.