United States Entry Requirements - What You Need To Visit The State

What do you need to prepare before visiting the U.S.? What are the United States Entry Requirements? These are the most common questions for any travellers who are preparing to visit this country.

Like most other countries, the United States requires a U.S. Visa and passport to enter. However, there are more details you should look into to prepare to the fullest.

This comprehensive guide will provide precise and up-to-date information on visas, necessary documents, and any travel restrictions relevant to your specific situation.

United States Entry Requirements: Some Heads-up

For any international travellers who are intending to visit the United States, the entry requirements can be broken down into 3 headlines:

  • You understand the rules
  • You have the needed documents
  • You know the procedures to follow.

The details in each headline might vary based on the reason why you are travelling to the U.S., for example, for business, for family visits, etc. Here, we will mostly state the overall requirements that any visitors will meet. 

Rules for the U.S. entry requirements

The first thing you should check out is the rules related to entry into the USA. These rules include immunisations, health conditions, criminal records, imported goods, etc. 

Some rules, like the no-threat to U.S. citizens, might seem unimportant because you would hardly do so. But there are some you should keep in mind because it might kick you out of the country before you even set foot in it, or it might lead to a huge fee that can affect your budget for the trip.


Since May 2023, travellers to the U.S. no longer need to provide a COVID-19 vaccine certification or test result to enter the country. 

If you only travel to the USA for a short amount of time, then immunisations are only recommended. To protect your own health, you should be vaccinated for 4 diseases that are COVID-19, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Rabies.

However, if you are entering the USA for immigration, then there is a list of vaccines required by the CDC

Health conditions

For international travellers, some diseases will be inadmissible to enter the U.S. The list includes communicable diseases of public health significance, mental or physical disorders with harmful behaviour, and drug abuse or addiction.

Criminal records

The USA states very clearly which criminal records are inadmissible to the country. Besides crimes related to national safety, such as terrorists, treason, etc., there are 7 crimes that the person convicted can’t access the U.S:

  1. Crimes involving "moral turpitude"
  2. Violating any controlled substance law or being involved in drug trafficking
  3. Involved in Prostitution
  4. Commercialised Vice
  5. Violations of Religious Freedom
  6. Human trafficking
  7. Money laundering.

Apart from these specific crimes, people who committed two or more crimes and were sentenced for more than 5 years in prison are also unable to enter the USA. Anyone who committed a crime in the U.S. and was asserted immunity from prosecution is also unable to return to the country once they left.

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

Know what you can do to enter the United States smoothly. Picture by Ferdinand Stöhr on Unsplash.

Imported goods

Preparing the luggage before the trip is a must for everyone. However, if you are travelling internationally to the USA, there are some things you are not allowed to bring along. Here is the list of things to avoid when packing for your trip.

  1. Alcoholic beverage: There is no specific rule on how much alcohol you can bring into the USA. For personal use, a person will get 1 litre duty-free. If you bring more, you will have to pay taxes for them. However, you should avoid it the most because the officers will likely suspect if you bring large quantities.  
  2. Cultural artefacts and objects of cultural value: You will only be able to carry these items into the U.S. if you have permission and receipt.
  3. Products from animals: These include animal skins, eggs, etc. Unless you have permission from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, it’s best to keep your leather and fur products at home. The same applies to food from animals, such as meat or dairy products.
  4. Food: As stated above, any products made of animals will be prohibited. You also can’t bring plants, seeds, or soup mixes. With products like candy, chocolate, nuts, tea, or coffee, you have to keep them in an unopened package.
  5. Medications: Medicines legally approved by the U.S. government are accepted to bring into the country. For medicines that contain drug paraphernalia, you have to provide a prescription from the doctor.
  6. Valuable goods: For cash, you can bring along with a maximum of $10,000. For gifts, you can carry up to $100 per item.
  7. Pets: There are different rules applied to different pets. If you have a distinguished pet, you likely won’t be able to bring them into the USA. If you have a dog or a cat, prepare the health certificates and ask the airline as well as the veterinarian what to prepare specifically.

What Documents Do I Need To Enter The USA?

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

Having a passport when travelling abroad is a must in any country. Photo by Krakenimages.com - stock.adobe.com

After understanding all the United States Entry Requirements, it’s time to prepare the required documents to travel to the USA. The most important documents you will need, like when you visit most countries, are a passport and visa.

  • Passport
  • Visa
  • Proof Of Travel Onwards And Return Ticket
  • Proof Of Sufficient Funds
  • Travel Insurance.

A Valid Passport

For international citizens who intend to visit the United States, your passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your stay in this country. This is a condition for you to apply for a U.S. Visa. 

However, if you belong on this list, you only need a passport with the valid time of your stay. Your passport does not need to be valid for six months beyond the period of your intended stay in the country.

Unless you participate in special programs, you will need a visa to enter the U.S., no matter how old you are. Depending on the purpose of your visit, you can apply for different types of visas. For more details, you can visit the official website of the U.S. Department of State to see which one is suitable for your trip.

In most cases, you will need to submit a valid passport (which we stated above) along with your visa application, the fee of $185 and your photos. You may be required to provide more documents based on the purpose of your visit, such as financial statements, your boarding pass, etc.

Can A US Citizen Enter The U.S. Without A Passport?

The answer is NO. According to the U.S. Immigration and National Act , any U.S. citizen, including children and babies, must have a passport to enter the country by air. If you enter the USA by land and sea, other documents like Trusted Travellers cards might be accepted. But it’s best if you don’t leave your passport at home.


Overall, if you only visit the United States for a short amount of time to travel, see a family member, or for business, etc., then getting the visitor visa (B-2) won’t be so difficult. All you need to remember is to fill out your application honestly and provide all the details required.

An interview for your visa might also be required if you are from 14 to 79 years old. Here, you will be questioned by a consular officer to see whether you are fit to receive a U.S. visa. If you are younger than 14 years old, you will need your parents to accompany you.

Visa Waiver Program and ESTA

Can you travel to the US without a visa? In some cases, you won’t need a visa to enter the USA. For example, citizens from certain countries can apply for the visa waiver program. 

This is a program designed to help most citizens from participating countries travel to the U.S. without having to provide a visa. Members of this program won’t need a visa if they travel to the U.S. for less than 90 days. 

To apply for this program, you will first need a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval to travel. Then, you have to meet all the requirements about your travel history. For more details, you can visit the websites of the U.S. Department of State or the CBP.

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

Most international travellers will need a visa and passport to enter the United States. Picture by Oxana Melis on Unsplash.

Proof Of Travel Onwards And Return Ticket

Proof of onward or return travel will be requested for your visa or at the airport before you officially enter the USA. The purpose of this is to prevent illegal immigration or anyone who intends to overstay in the country.

You will need to provide your flight tickets to the next destination or back to your hometown. The best way is to plan your entire trip beforehand and get a two-way ticket. But if you don’t want to, then book a refundable ticket with an estimated leaving date.

If you are travelling on a Visa Waiver Program, keep in mind that your time in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the islands of the Caribbean also counts as staying in the U.S. 

This means that if you fly to these countries from the USA,  you can’t exceed the maximum stay of 90 days without a visa in your total trip, and you will also need tickets to prove your transportation before entering the U.S.

Proof Of Sufficient Funds

Another document you need to prepare to enter the USA is proof of sufficient funds. This can be your credit cards, cash, etc., anything to cover the cost of the trip. Most people advise you to have at least $6,000 in your bank account.

In case you have anyone who will provide you with meals and let you stay at their house, ask them to write a letter. The letter should have their name and address so you can show it to the officer. This doesn’t ensure you can get into the country, but it will help if you have a small budget.

Travel Insurance

The USA doesn’t require travel insurance when you visit the country. However, it is advisable, as you will have to pay a huge price if you get sick as the United States has some of the highest healthcare costs in the world.

Furthermore, unexpected events like illness, weather disruptions, or travel disruptions can derail your trip. Travel insurance can help reimburse you for pre-paid expenses and cover baggage lost, rental car damage, etc. Thus, investing in travel insurance when travelling to the U.S., or any country, is always a wise move.

Entering The US As A UK Citizen

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

What documents do British travellers need for US entry? Read on to find out. Credit: Ági Szabadi

As a UK citizen, there are advantages to travelling to the USA. First, your passport only needs to be valid during the period of your stay there. Second, you can either choose to visit with a valid visa or apply for an ESTA visa waiver. Third, you can also apply for the Global Entry Program.

Important: Read the FCDO travel advice first before planning your travel to the State. 

The third one is actually a huge privilege for U.K. citizens, as the Global Entry Program is usually only for U.S. citizens, U.S. Lawful Permanent Residents, and Mexican nationals. Being able to join this program means you can also join the TSA Precheck and enjoy passing the security check fast and effectively.

Most UK citizens are eligible for the VWP if they meet all requirements. 

  • Valid e-passport
  • Pre-approval through ESTA application (mandatory at least 72 hours prior to travel)
  • Other VWP eligibility criteria (check official sources for details).

However,  the visa waiver program won’t be available if you have criminal records, previously overstayed under an ESTA, refused admission into the USA, or travelled to certain countries on or after March 2011: Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Yemen.

And keep in mind that if you get Covid during your stay in the U.S., you will have to stay there for treatment.

United States Entry Procedure: What To Expect

To enter the United States, you will have to pass 04 steps beforehand.


What To Expect

Documents Needed


Boarding The Plane

  • Drop off your checked luggage.
  • All documents mentioned above
  • Join Trusted Travellers Program
  • Invest in the right backpack

Security check

  • Declare any items you are bringing into the US, including gifts and souvenirs
  • Your luggage may be scanned or physically inspected
  • Valid passport or e-passport
  • Valid visa
  • Proof of onward travel
  • ESTA (if eligible)
  • Do not pack prohibited items in your checked or carry-on luggage.

Customs Inspection

  • Proceed to Immigration Inspection
  • Present documents to Officers
  • Answer Officers's Questions
  • Declaration form (if required)
  • Dress modestly and professionally.
  • Be honest and answer questions truthfully

Arrival at Destination

  • Retrieve your luggage from the baggage claim area.
  • Baggage claim ticket
  • Follow directions and signage to exit the airport.

Boarding The Plane

Starting with registering your flight, you will be checked for security by the airlines you booked. Go to the international flight gate at the airport and follow the instructions to check your luggage and board the plane.

At this point, you might have to wait in a long queue and waste hours before getting on board. To avoid this problem, consider joining a Trusted Travellers Program like Global Entry, TSA Precheck, or CLEAR. Members of these programs will be prioritised to skip some steps in the check-in process. 

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

There are certain rules you have to follow with your luggage to board the plane. Picture by Markus Winkler on Unsplash.

Security check

During the security check, officers will scan you and your luggage to see whether you comply with the flight rules. Remember to check your carry-on carefully to avoid bringing prohibited products on the plane. And don’t forget the 3-1-1 Liquid Rule to avoid having your skincare and makeup thrown away.

Note: When going through security checking, your luggage might be broken as the authorities might open it to search. Consider choosing a luggage with a TSA-approved lock. You can put your valuable belongings into the personal item with a lockable main compartment such as CabinZero’s.

Customs Inspection

This is the most important step in deciding if you will be able to enter the United States or not. Here, you will be separated into 04 groups for passport control: Visitors, Global Entry, Citizens from the U.S., Canada or having a Green Card; ESTA.

An agent will ask you basic questions to classify your purpose of entering the USA. If the agent suspects you have inappropriate attention, they might deny your entry to the country. If everything is in order, the officer will stamp your passport. This means your admission into the U.S. has been granted.

Claim Your Luggage And Start The Journey

Upon arrival in the U.S., you'll go through passport control. Be ready to present your passport, visa (if applicable), and any other required documents. Visit CBP’s official website for the most up-to-date information.

To officially enter the USA, you will have to complete the entry paperwork, including obtaining the admission number, filling out the U.S. Customs Declaration Form, and answering some questions from the CBP officer.

Make sure to adhere to the terms of your entry (e.g., duration of stay, purpose of visit) to avoid issues with immigration authorities. After receiving permission to enter the United States, you may grab your luggage and begin your journey.

Things You Should Prepare Before Entering The United States

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

Bring along the prescription if you need to bring medicines on the trip. Picture by Christina Victoria Craft on Unsplash.

Before starting your trip to the United States, besides the passport, visa, and luggage, there are things you should prepare just in case anything happens. This will help you ensure the entering process can occur smoothly and lower the risk of not being accepted.

Any Documents Relating To Your Health

People tend to bring medical along during the trip, especially those who have terminal illnesses. But you can’t be sure which chemical the government prohibit. This can lead to unwanted risks that you might be excreted from the country.

Having all the documents related to your health, such as prescription, insurance, or medical certificate, can prove your need to the authorities. Moreover, it can also help you when an emergency happens.

A Copy Of All Your Personal Documents

While travelling internationally, your personal documents are extremely important. Keeping a copy of them might have no legal effect, but in some cases, they can help you prove your identity and simplify administrative procedures.

A SIM Card

Though free wifi is common nowadays, you won’t have it all the time during your trip. The best way is to have a SIM Card to be able to contact through both phone numbers and the internet all the time.

Most of the airports in the USA won’t sell SIM Cards. So you should buy them online beforehand to update any needed information. Another way is to search for the nearest retailer to the airport.


1. Do I Need A Covid Test To Enter The Us?

Since 2022, the U.S. no longer requires a COVID test to enter the country. And from May 2023, visitors to the United States also won’t need a vaccination certificate.

2. How Old Do You Need A Visa?

No matter how old you are when visiting the U.S., you always need a visa. Even if you are travelling with your children, having a visa is also a must. The only exception is if you are from a country that participates in a visa waiver program.

United States Entry Requirements - CabinZero

You need a visa to enter the USA in most cases. Picture by Global Residence Index on Unsplash.

3. Which countries can travel to the USA without a visa?

There are 41 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens from these countries won’t be required a visa when visiting the USA. However, there are special rules that apply to those who have travelled to countries like Iran, Iraq, Cuba, etc. You can search for detailed information about the eligible countries HERE.

4. Can I Travel To The Usa With Less Than 3 Months On My Passport?

The answer is yes, but not likely. The reason is that your passport will need to be valid at least 6 months after your stay in the United States to get a visa. So unless you don’t need a visa (as you are eligible for Visa Waiver Program), you can’t travel to the USA with less than 3 months on your passport.

5. What Does Esta Mean?

ESTA is short for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This is a system to provide eligibility to citizens from visa-waiver countries to enter the USA. You will have to apply for this on the official website to enjoy the priorities.

Enjoy the trip!

Though it might seem like the United States has a lot of entry requirements, this is necessary to maintain security and safety. Don’t be pressured. As long as you follow the rules and have a clear purpose, you can enter the country without any doubts!

Have you ever been to the USA? Share your experience with fellow travellers to help them enter this country smoothly. And don’t forget to share this article with your travel buddies so that everyone can enjoy a hassle-free arrival in the Land of Opportunity.

Claire Thuc

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