USA Visas

Australian citizens hoping to secure a US tourist visa are in for some good news: you don’t need one. Before you get too excited, there’s still a little electronic ‘paperwork’ required, so read on.

Most Australian and New Zealand citizens visiting the United States for less than 90 days may be able to enter the country under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Do do so, you’ll need to make sure you’re eligible (see below) and you’ll also need to be pre-approved for the VWP via the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA).

Wow, what a mouthful. We’ll walk you through the process, below.

Types Of Tourist Visa For US

As mentioned above, you can technically enter the US without a visa if you have an approved ESTA, which is generally valid for two years. If you’re looking to travel to the US for a holiday and don’t apply for the ESTA, the visa you will need is Visa category B-2, which includes travel for the purpose of ‘pleasure, tourism, or medical treatment’. Note that if you’re travelling for business, this is a different visa, the B-1 Business Visitor Visa.

How To Apply For A US Visa

To apply to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) you’ll first need to confirm that you’re eligible.

You can’t enter the US under the VWP if you have:

  • been previously denied entry under the VWP or been denied a US visa an Emergency Passport, Document of Identity or Provisional Travel Document

  • a criminal record or have been arrested, even if it didn’t result in a conviction

  • dual citizenship with Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria or

  • travelled to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen since 1 March 2011 (with limited exceptions).

If none of the above apply, you can go ahead and apply for an ESTA, as long as you have an e-passport with an embedded electronic chip. Note that if you prefer to have a visa in your passport as opposed to the electronic variety, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.

Applying is easy and you can do so on the official website of the Department of Homeland Security. Just follow the ‘United States Customs and Border Protection’ link on the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website. To apply, you’ll need your passport with six month’s validity and a valid credit card or PayPal account to pay the required US$14 per application.

Real-time ESTA approvals were once available at the airport but this is no longer the case. The US Customs and Border Protection website instructs would-be travellers to apply for ESTA no later than 72 hours before departure, because anyone arriving at the airport without an approved ESTA will not be permitted to board their flight.

Be aware of countless scams when you’re applying for your ESTA. The cost is US$14, so if you’re being charged anything like US$90 (in one known scam) then alarm bells should be ringing.

It’s also worth noting that the United States takes its border protection very seriously. ESTA approval or obtaining a vistor (B) visa does not guarantee you entry into the US, it merely grants you permission to board a US-bound aircraft or vessel. Whether you can enter the US or not will be determined at the port of entry. You should definitely have a read of all the information on the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website. US authorities may wish to access your electronic devices, social media accounts, email accounts or see text messages.

Please note: Visas are the individual responsibility of travellers. The information above is to be used as a guide only. Conditions can change suddenly so we recommend checking the Australian Government’s Smart Traveller website for the latest updates.

If you have any questions regarding US visas, call 133 133 and talk to a Flight Centre Travel Expert for advice.

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