How do you plan to enter the United States? It’s a question many travelers don’t ask themselves when planning a trip. The default option if usually flying, however travelers can also enter the country by land or by sea. Regardless of if you enter the U.S. by land, air or sea, you will need an ESTA if you hold a passport from a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) country.
In this article, we discuss the situations whereby a travel would enter the U.S. by land, sea or air as discuss their options for obtaining an ESTA or a U.S. visa depending on the traveler’s circumstances.
Driving through the the US-Mexico border with an ESTA
The US-Mexico border is one of the busiest in the world, with millions of people crossing it every year. If you’re planning to travel to the US from Mexico, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper documentation. An ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is required for all travelers from the 40 VWP countries. It must be obtained before arrival in the US. The ESTA can be obtained online, and it’s valid for multiple trips over a two-year period. Once you have your approved ESTA, you should be able to cross the border without any problems. Keep in mind, however, that an ESTA does not guarantee entry into the US. You may still be subject to inspection by border officials. But with an ESTA, you’ll be able to travel to the US with peace of mind, knowing that you have the proper documentation. If you are denied an ESTA or are ineligible, you will need a U.S. visa to enter the country.
Crossing the US-Canada border with an ESTA
The United States-Canada border is the longest international border in the world, stretching nearly 5,525 miles from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. For Canadians, crossing this border is a simple matter of presenting a valid passport or other travel document at a designated U.S. port of entry. For the many travelers who are not Canadians, a U.S. visa would be required. However, travelers holding a passport from a country that participates in the VWP, may be able to enter the US using an ESTA. An ESTA is a digital travel authorization that allows eligible travelers to enter the US for business, tourism or transit purposes. The benefit of an ESTA is that since it is a visa waiver, ESTA approved travelers are not required to obtain a visa.
To be eligible for an ESTA, you must hold a passport from a VWP country and have a valid email address. Once you have submitted your application, you will typically receive a decision from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) within 72 hours. If your application is approved, you will be able to use your ESTA to cross the US-Canada border. An approved ESTA can be used for stays of up to 90 days per visit. If your ESTA is denied, you can still apply for a visa. It is important to note that an ESTA is not a visa. If you are unsure whether you meet the eligibility requirements for an ESTA, or if you need help completing your application, we recommend that you consult with a qualified immigration attorney.
Sailing the US-Caribbean border with an ESTA
The US-Caribbean border is a popular sailing route for both recreational and commercial vessels. Vessels traveling this route must comply with the applicable regulations of both the US and the country of destination. For US-flagged vessels, this includes obtaining a valid ESTA prior to arrival. The ESTA is required for all non-US citizens entering the United States by sea, and it can be obtained online through the US Department of Homeland Security website. Commercial vessels must also obtain a Certificate of Documentation from the US Coast Guard. For more information on sailing the US-Caribbean border, consider consulting the relevant authorities in both the United States and your country of destination.
If you are planning on driving to any of the US borders, it is important to know what type of documentation you need. An ESTA is all that is required for VWP travelers driving through the US-Mexico and US-Canada border. If you are from a VWP country and are sailing the US-Caribbean border, you will also need an ESTA. If you are ineligible for an ESTA or were denied an ESTA, you will need to obtain a visa to enter the United States by land, sea or air. Make sure to do your research ahead of time so that you can avoid any issues when entering the United States.