This article provides a list of considerations travelers should take into account when entering the United States from Canada or Mexico.
If I am currently in Mexico or Canada, and I would like to drive to the United States, will I have to apply for an ESTA authorization?
If you have citizenship from a country that forms part of the VWP (Visa Waiver Program) and you want to enter the United States from Canada or Mexico, there is no need to apply for an ESTA.
– First entry through a land border if you have a valid ESTA. In this case, you will not have to fill out a paper I-94W form. You will, however, still have to enter the country through a manual process at the relevant land border crossing.
– First entry through a land border if you do not have a valid ESTA. Should you not have an approved ESTA authorization, you will have to fill out a paper I-94W form and then enter through a manual process at the relevant land border crossing.
– If you have a valid stamp in your passport or a valid I-94W from an earlier entry into the United States. If you want to re-enter the United States after traveling to Canada or Mexico for less than 30 days, there is no need to fill out a paper I-94W form. Your entry into the U.S. will also be expedited.
Note: Citizens from Visa Waiver Program countries do not have to apply for an ESTA if they travel on one of the ferries between Victoria, BC or Vancouver and Washington State because these are regarded as land border crossings.
Do I have to fill out the I-94W form if I am in possession of an approved ESTA?
With the introduction of the ESTA program, the Department of Homeland Security was able to waive the requirement that travelers from VWP countries should fill out a I-94W form before they will be allowed to enter the U.S. Since then, CBP has switched to paperless processing for travelers from these countries, provided that they are in possession of an approved ESTA and they arrive by sea or air.
The majority of carriers are nowadays able to receive and validate messages related to a visitor’s ESTA status as part of his or her boarding status. That is why a visitor who wants to enter the U.S. under the VWP (and whose ESTA application has been duly approved) will no longer get the old I-94W coupon in his her passport.
When should a traveler apply for a visa and not for an ESTA?
Travelers to the United States have to apply for a non-immigrant visa before embarking on a journey to the country under any of the following circumstances:
– If their planned visit to the U.S. will be longer than 90 days.
– If they plan to arrive in the U.S. on board a non-signatory airline
– If there is any reason to believe that they might not be admissible into the United States in terms of the Immigration and Nationality Act § 212(a). In that case, they should submit an application for a non-immigrant visa before commencing their journey to the U.S.
– If their trip to the United States is not related to business or short-term tourism.
Will I get an email notification when my ESTA is close to expiration?
An expiration notice will be sent to the email address you entered on the application form when your ESTA is approaching expiration. This email will advise you to visit the official ESTA site and submit a new application.
Generally speaking, your approved ESTA will be valid for more than one entry into the United States over a period of two years. There are, however, exceptions to this general rule. If your passport will, for example, expire before the end of the 2-year period, the approved ESTA will expire with it and you will have to apply again.
My ESTA application was unsuccessful. How can I find out why?
The ESTA program was developed by the Department of Homeland Security specifically to make sure that those applicants whose visit would be regarded as a security or law enforcement risk, or who do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, will not be granted a travel authorization. Although there is a link from the ESTA website to the TRIP Travel Redress Inquiry Program run by the Department of Homeland Security, it can not be guaranteed that an applicant whose ESTA application has been rejected will get a refund or any other form of redress.
It is also important to be aware that consulates and embassies will not be able to provide the reason for an ESTA being rejected or fix the problem that caused the rejection. Consulates and embassies will, however, be in a position to consider an application for a non-immigrant visa. If this application is successful, it will be the only other way for someone who wants to travel to the United States and who had his or her ESTA application rejected to still get authorization to visit the US.