What Documents Are Needed to Travel Abroad?
You’re excitedly counting down the days until your sunny Florida vacation. But before you go, it’s important to be in the know about all the documents needed to travel to America.
Here’s a listing of information about the documentation required by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Visa Waiver Program, ESTA, and all the other basics to make your entry into the country effortless.
Basic Traveler Documents
Think of the first thing you triple-check before you leave for the airport. If you thought passport, you’re thinking like a world traveler.
Your passport is the primary ID required for air travel to a foreign country, so keep it close and safe. Make sure to check your passport well in advance to ensure it’s not expired. Although there are many passport expediting services, renewing your passport rush-free will save you the stress and big price tag.
An alternate form of I.D. like a driver’s license and/or birth certificate is also important to bring along, as well as any visa documentation. Depending on your country of origin, you may not need a visa to visit the U.S. thanks to the Visa Waiver Program.
Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of 38 countries to visit the United States without a visa, facilitating entry to the country. Business or tourism visitors can stay for up to 90 days; visas are required for longer stays.
The Visa Waiver Program works only for electronic passports, or e-Passports, which contain an electronic chip. Most passports are electronic, but if you’re not sure, check for a chip icon at the bottom of the front cover of your passport. Travelers without an e-Passport are subject to a non-immigrant visa requirement.
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
If your country falls under the Visa Waiver Program you don’t need to worry about visas. But in order to be admitted into the country, you’re going to need to apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or ESTA. This automated system determines if you’re eligible to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program using biographic info, and answers to VWP eligibility questions. The application process has a $4 processing fee, and a $10 authorization charge. Although in most cases a response is received within seconds of submission, make sure you apply as soon as you start planning your trip. Questions on ESTA or the VWP? Check out the U.S. Customs and Border Protection FAQ’s.
If your country doesn’t fall under the Visa Waiver Program, if you’re an exchange student, or if you have other circumstances that require you to stay longer than 90 days in Florida, you’re going to need a nonimmigrant visa, or a visa for someone who doesn’t plan to permanently immigrate to the U.S.
These visas are categorized, with the Tourism and Visitor visa being one of the most common. It’s a lengthier, more hands-on process, but as long as you tick all the requirement boxes, you’ll be good to go. Once you submit all documents and pay a fee, which ranges from $160-$205 depending on your visa, you’ll be cited for an interview. Visit the U.S. Department of State’s website for a detailed list of requirements, as well as the step-by-step process.
It’s strongly recommended that you bring a note of consent (notarized, if possible) if you’re travelling with your child, and the other parent or legal guardian isn’t accompanying you.
As far as additional documents needed to travel abroad, international travelers no longer need to complete Customs and Border Protection Form I-94 or Form I-94W. If you need to verify immigration status, employment authorization, or any other admission information, you can use your I-94 number (access it here). Your I-94 number is a required form of ID at customs, so make sure to save it in multiple places (phone, notepad, etc.).
With so many papers and so much fine print, international travel can sometimes feel like a Rubik’s cube. But our handy list will help you navigate the ins and outs of customs, security, visas, and forms so you can focus on jumping in and out of Florida’s gorgeous beaches.