The summer travel season is fast approaching, and many foreign citizens are making plans now to visit the U.S., but they wont be going anywhere without the necessary immigration compliance preparations.
Generally, the necessary preparations would include obtaining a tourist visa, but it is possible to avoid the paperwork, fees and waiting associated with this step if you are an eligible citizen of a country that is enrolled in the U.S. visa waiver program.
There are 36 countries in the program, including the United Kingdom, Japan and most of Europe, which enables eligible visitors from participating countries to apply online for a visa waiver via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (the ESTA).
In most cases, the ESTA site will immediately determine your eligibility for travel under the visa waiver program, and it will tell you quickly if:
- Travel is not authorized;
- Travel is approved; or
- Travel authorization is pending, subject to further scrutiny.
Applicants who receive a notice of pending authorization should be able to re-check the Website after 72 hours for a definitive response.
If your ESTA application is rejected or you are not eligible to use the ESTA, then you will have to apply for a regular tourist visa. This process is much longer and more confusing, but can be facilitated by an experienced lawyer.
If you have questions about travel to the U.S., you may contact our office at (847) 564-0712 to speak with a qualified immigration lawyer. You can also check out our immigration law Website for more information.