Checklist and tips for entering the United States

The United States of America – a dream destination of many people. So that nothing stands in the way of your entry into the USA, we have put together the most important information and tips for you. You certainly will not forget anything with our checklist – and you can soon enjoy your USA trip.

In the land of unlimited possibilities, the entry requirements seem unlimited. But appearance is deceptive. We show you which prerequisites and procedures are important. So it works soon with your (dream) vacation.

1. Before entering

Electronic entry permit

If you want to travel to the US for business, transit or tourism, you do not need a visa. Germany is one of the 38 countries participating in the so-called Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Citizens of these countries can enter the US without a visa, but with an electronic entry permit. Requirement is,

  • that you do not stay longer than 90 days in the US
  • that you have enough funds to finance the stay and the return journey
  • that you can show a return ticket or an onward journey

You can get this entry permit via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Note: The permit must be requested at least 72 hours before departure . Ideally, you have a credit card that you can use to pay the $ 14 fee. You also need a valid biometric passport (also called ePass) valid at least until the end of your stay – including the departure date. If you only have a temporary passport, you also need a visa.

If you do not receive an ESTA permit because you do not meet one or more requirements, the only option left is to apply for a visa. If you are a US citizen or in possession of a US visa, you do not need an electronic travel authorization.

Note: Electronic approval does not mean that you have a right to enter the US. This is ultimately decided by the US border guards .

Entering the USA with children

For the entry into the USA a passport with electronic storage medium is a prerequisite. However, the children’s passport does not contain such a chip. If you want to enter the USA with your family , the children need a visa .

Exception: Children’s passports issued or renewed before 26.10.2006 do not require a visa to enter. But of course, all other requirements must be fulfilled.

Entering the USA: good to know

  • The granted permit is valid for up to two years (unless your passport expires before, then the date is valid).
  • The permit is also valid for multiple arrivals to the US.
  • If you have arrived in the US, you can travel to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean within 90 days and return to the USA by any means you choose.
  • US border agencies may search laptops (or other electronic data carriers) to prevent crime.
  • Airlines are required to submit the data to the US authority through the Advance Passenger Information System (APIS) . For this there is a corresponding form , which is usually already filled in during the flight booking. Data collected: Country of primary residence and full first address in USA (house number, street, city, state, zip code). The form does not apply if you are about to move to a third country or if you have a permanent residence permit for the United States.

2. On the plane to the USA

Already on the plane you will be asked to complete a customs declaration and return it there. In it, you have to explain if, which and how many goods and objects miteingeführt (alcohol, food etc). Of course, your clothes brought with you do not concern that. Gifts up to $ 100 are allowed (note: Surprise eggs are prohibited in the US).

If you bring more than $ 10,000 with you, you do not just have to specify it, you also have to explain its origin .

In order to relax the flight, there are practical tips for your long-haul flight.

3. When entering the USA

The US border guard takes fingerprints on entry and also takes a picture of you. He will also ask you a few questions.

The survey

  • Do not make jokes (no matter how obvious!)
  • Do not eat while doing other rude things
  • Have your passport and your return / onward ticket ready
  • Also, keep the dates of your accommodation (name and address of the hotel (s)) if asked again
  • Explain why you are arriving (for example, visiting relatives, sightseeing in New York City, …). If the official is in doubt, he may ask you more intensively and in more detail – this can go as far as hours of questioning (so-called secondary inspection). If the official has the impression that you want to take up a job in the USA (then you would need a visa) or something similar, the one who chooses not to let you in can decide.

And after the interview … you did it! 💪🏻 (hopefully your luggage arrived 😉)

Tip: The Federal Foreign Office recommends that you make a copy of the passport that shows the entry stamp or visa and that you will keep it with you throughout your stay. Since this is mandatory in some states of the USA (such as Louisiana).

Information about entering with a dog

The family dog ​​is definitely going to the US? This is not a problem in most cases, but here too entry requirements apply.

If you have clarified that the selected airline is transporting pets, you must pay attention to the following:

  • The dog must be healthy when entering the USA
  • You need the vaccination certificate of the dog in English or a corresponding translation
  • If the dog is older than 12 weeks, it needs a vaccination certificate for a rabies vaccination . This must be at least 30 days before, but not later than 12 months before. The certificate must be issued by a veterinarian.
  • Hawaii and Guam have different terms.

For more information about pet entry, please visit the US Customs and Border Protection .

Checklist for your entry into the USA

  1. Book return ticket or ticket for onward journey
  2. Check Pass : Is the validity period for the planned trip sufficient? Otherwise apply for a new one in advance (schedule processing time!)
  3. Also check child travel passports, apply for a visa if necessary
  4. Apply for ESTA at least 3 days in advance. If you want to be on the safe side, you can print the permit and guide with you. Use the official website of the US government for the application
  5. Make note of the accommodation data and keep it handy (see point 6)
  6. All travel documents collected in your handbag or stowed in your hand luggage
  7. Please inquire about import regulations of food & Co.
  8. Before you leave, think about what you might answer to questions from the border guard . So: why do you want to enter? A few examples (eg which tourist attractions you want to see) can not hurt. You do not feel safe in English? Ask friends and acquaintances if they can help you or take the opportunity to refresh your English in a class
  9. Slowly it can go to packing … Here you will find the best packing list for every holiday
  10. Allow enough time for travel to and from the airport (be there at least two hours before departure)

Then you need a visa

Travelers who do not want to enter the US as a tourist, business traveler or transit person need a visa. For example,

  • if you want to study in the United States
  • if you want to participate in an exchange program
  • if you want to work there (job offer should be available)
  • if you want to work there unpaid , z. As an au pair

There is not ONE visa, but there are various visas, such as one for temporary employment. The requirements and costs vary depending on the visa. For more information, contact the US Embassy and Consulates in Germany.

Experiences and travel tips from other travel enthusiasts can also be found in the Brigitte Community .

Videotipp: Through the US for less than 200 euros – how it works!

USA-Trip: So bereist ihr elf amerikanische Staaten für weniger als 200 Euro

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