In any trip to the United States (whether for tourism or business) there is always a doubt that makes many travelers nervous: the documents to travel to the United States . After the pandemic, the requirements have been changing (PCR, antigen test, vaccination certificate…). In this article I am going to explain point by point what are the requirements to travel to the United States from Spain and anywhere in the world (oh, and I am also going to explain how the ESTA and the visa work to travel to the United States , that there are differences depending of the traveler type).
Requirements to travel to the United States and required documents
Traveling to the United States is one of the most impressive experiences I have ever had. However, this country has a small big drawback: the inconvenience and hermetic nature of its border access. The United States seems to live in constant tension at its border, turning a simple entry procedure into a defense in court.
As the subject of the requirements to enter the United States is quite cumbersome, I am going to be very clear and schematic in explaining the documents necessary to travel to the United States. For this I will divide the text into two parts:
- Mandatory and impenetrable documents to travel to the United States: visa, ESTA, vaccination certificate, passport…
- Recommended documents or requirements: international driving license, travel insurance, use of a mask in certain places…
Documents to travel to the United States mandatory and impenetrable
The requirements to travel to the United States that cannot be forgotten are the following:
The vaccination certificate against Covid-19 is one of the last documents to travel to the United States that have been added to the list of mandatory ones. Before June 2022, the antigen test and the PCR test were also mandatory requirements, but this circumstance has been canceled (at least until further notice). Therefore, foreign travelers must provide proof of vaccination with the complete guideline before boarding the plane.
Looking forward to entering the United States and according to official information from the US embassy and consulate in Spain and Andorra, a fully vaccinated person is considered:
- 2 weeks (14 days) after receiving the dose of an accepted single-dose vaccine.
- 2 weeks (14 days) after receiving the second dose of an accepted 2-dose vaccine
- 2 weeks (14 days) after completing the vaccination schedule with an accepted COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a clinical trial.
- 2 weeks (14 days) after completing the vaccination schedule with a Novavax (or Covavax) COVID-19 vaccine (not placebo) in a phase 3 clinical trial
- 2 weeks (14 days) after receiving 2 doses of any combination of accepted COVID-19 vaccines (more on those later) that have been given at least 17 days apart
For any of these cases, it is not necessary to have the booster dose to comply with this requirement . However (and this is IMPORTANT), unlike what happens in other countries, those people who, even if they have suffered from COVID, have only received one dose of the 2-dose vaccines, are not considered a complete guideline in the United States.
Regarding the vaccines against COVID-19 accepted in the United States, this is the updated list :
|Single dose||Janssen/J&JConvidecia (CanSinoBIO)|
|2-dose schedule||Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech)Spikevax (Moderna)Comirnaty (Pfizer-BioNTech)Spikevax (Moderna)Vaxzevria (AstraZeneca)CovaxinCovishieldBIBP/SinopharmCoronaVac (Sinovac)Nuvaxovid (Novavax)CovovaxMedicago|
Exceptions to this vaccination requirement are as follows:
- Under 18 years old
- People who, by medical prescription, cannot receive the vaccine
- Emergency travelers who do not have access to the vaccine
Passport to enter the United States
The passport is another requirement to enter the United States. Despite the obviousness of this note, it is not unreasonable since it is essential that anyone who wants to enter the United States, for tourism or for work, has
- A valid passport with a minimum validity of six months from the moment of entering the country (pay attention to expiration dates)
- With a minimum of two free passport pages (watch out for intensive travelers who exhaust passports as if they were annual agendas).
ESTA for United States
The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) is another requirement to travel to the United States from Spain for tourism or work. Although, beware, there are various cases that can make this not enough.
What is the ESTA?
The ESTA is an electronic payment authorization (around 21 dollars, a price that can be consulted on its official website ) with a validity of 24 months that allows you to stay in the country for a maximum of 90 consecutive days. This duration of 24 months allows that, with the same ESTA, several trips to the United States can be made.
The ESTA is the document required for all those people who travel to the United States for tourism or business and within a period not exceeding 90 days from any country that is included in the Visa Waiver Program .
The ESTA does not work as a visa, only as a document required for final authorization, which will take place at the time of customs clearance. The final decision rests with the customs agent (with whom you have to have fair jokes… I still remember when one of them asked my partner, Eva, who had been in Iran years before, why she had gone there, what had to see in that place. I bit my tongue in front of enormous ignorance…
Most travelers to the United States enter by sea or by air. Here an important fact arises, and that is that the ESTA is the document required for those who access the country by these means. In case of entering by land border, the ESTA is not valid, and the I-94 form is required (I will talk about this later).
How to apply for ESTA online?
The ESTA is requested electronically through the official United States customs page (note, there are many pages that process it for a higher price. The one I have listed is the official one). It is advisable to request the ESTA at least three days before the departure of the flight .
The process is very simple. Here I put it below:
Steps to apply for ESTA online :
- Start a new RequestOpen the official page for the ESTA process: If you are traveling alone, an «individual application» will be made, if you are traveling as a couple or in a group, a group of applications.
- Answer eligibility questionsThe next step in applying for ESTA is answering the eligibility questions. These are a series of issues related to the reason for the trip, the intentions of the traveler and his past. Among them are some as surprising as if they have participated in terrorist acts or have attempted to attack a president of the United States (🙄). We must avoid sarcasm and answer everything seriously and sincerely, because, if not, we risk having our ESTA rejected and having to apply for a visa.This is the step in which, perhaps, we can be rejected for having visited countries that the United States considers dangerous. Later I talk about this in the section “Visa to travel to the United States”.
- Verify information and make paymentAfter verifying the information, it is time to make the payment, which is done by card. The response with the result (positive or negative) takes between 24 and 48 hours to be sent to the email provided during the application process. If there are no problems and the request is accepted, you have to download it, print it and take it with you on the trip.
Estimated cost: $21
Visa to travel to the United States
The visa is one of the requirements to enter the United States that can vary depending on the country. In the case of Spaniards, we have the visa exemption to enter the US for tourism and business trips , as long as these do not exceed 90 days of stay (for more information, see the link I put in the previous point about visa-exempt countries).
IMPORTANT: There are cases in which the United States rejects the ESTA application even if you belong to a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program. This can happen, for example, for having previously visited countries that are «suspicious» for the United States (such as Iran in the case that my partner mentioned before. This is one of those suspicious countries for the USA and she had to get a visa) .
For those cases that do not fall within the Visa Waiver Program (or that the ESTA has been rejected), the United States differentiates between different types of visas according to the type of trip to be made. In this way we find the non-immigrant visa B1 and B2 for visitors on a business or tourism trip, or the F/M for students or the J for exchange visitors (Au Pair…). The visa to travel to the United States from Spain is processed from this link
As I mentioned before when talking about how to apply for the ESTA, the I-94 form is the mandatory registration document to enter the United States for tourist purposes through a land border post . The I-94 form can be requested both at the border posts of the United States with Canada and Mexico, as well as through the official website and allows a stay of 90 days in the country.
The attestation form is a document to travel to the United States that has been requested since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. It is a statement about the state of health and where you have to complete the information about the entry flight and the planned stay in the country.
The attestation form is requested when boarding the outbound flight to the United States and each airline provides information about it and provides the download link to fill it out. It can also be downloaded through the official Attestation form page .
Requirements to travel to the United States are not mandatory but are recommended
There are other types of requirements to travel to the United States that, although they are not mandatory, are highly recommended to enter the country.
International driver’s license for the United States
The international driving license is a document valid for one year that allows you to drive in those countries that do not recognize the driving licenses of each country. Although there are countries in which a normal circulation permit is enough to be able to rent a vehicle and drive around the country, in the United States it is worth erring on the side of caution and go with an international driver’s license, in case there are problems. time of rental or before a control of a circulation agent.
United States travel insurance
Among the mandatory requirements to travel to the United States does not include something that, of course, I suggest you go in the suitcase yes or yes when planning a trip to North America: travel insurance. The United States is one of the countries with the most expensive health care. Some figures that are handled are the following:
- A routine consultation costs around 100 USD (if you add some analysis, it goes up to 300-400 USD)
- A consultation with a specialist can amount to 400 dollars
- The ambulance transfer, from 700 USD
- A minor surgery that requires a minimum hospital admission (such as appendicitis), can amount to 40,000-50,000 dollars.
In other words, travel insurance becomes essential if, for whatever reason, we get injured. To do this, having travel insurance that covers these expenses seems almost a necessity. To expand on this, I tell you the following:
Discountin your travel insurance for USA:
I have been traveling with insurance for a long time, but for places like the United States it becomes a ESSENTIAL . Not because it is dangerous, but because any health care , no matter how small , costs a lot (a sprain, gastroenteritis…).
Besides, due to Covid-19 , many countries are requesting compulsory travel insurance to enter the country (USA one of them).
Therefore, I tell you that, through my blog you can have the following discount with the Mondo company 👇
Characteristics and coverage of Mondo insurance
- Coverage : from 500,000 euros (up to 5,000,000 in Premium coverage).
- Covid coverage , which includes:
- Medical expenses, health transfer and repatriation due to Covid-19 disease .
- Travel PCR test : expenses derived from the test if it has been prescribed by a doctor.
- Expenses derived from extension of stay due to medical quarantine .
- Discount previous PCR test .
- Travel assistance app , which has:
- 24h medical chat
- Free assistance call through the App.
- Management of incidents.
In addition, Mondo has the option of adding cancellation insurance , which seems essential to me today due to the instability that exists due to Covid (in recent months I have had to cancel up to 6 trips…)
If you want to take a look at the conditions and calculate the price you can do so by clicking this link .
Compulsory vaccinations in the United States
Apart from the Covid-19 vaccine, the United States does not require a mandatory vaccination record. However, it does take into account cases such as those of travelers who have been in countries with risk of yellow fever transmission, from whom a vaccination certificate against this disease will be required. On the other hand, it is advisable to have the vaccination schedule up to date: diphtheria-tetanus, hepatitis B, hepatitis A or triple viral (measles, rubella and mumps).
Wearing a mask in the United States
The use of the mask in the United States has become much more flexible in recent months. As of the publication of this article, most states have eliminated them in public spaces with the exception of certain places, such as health care centers (hospitals, pharmacies). Some places like New York and Los Angeles also continue to make it mandatory to wear a mask on public transport. That is why it is worth having several masks in your luggage to be able to access those places where it is required.
Registry of travelers of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Finally, another of the recommended requirements to travel to the United States is to sign up for the Ministry’s travel registry. It is a voluntary and free procedure through which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is notified of our presence in a certain country at a specific time. In this way, the Ministry is facilitated with the work of locating, rescuing and/or repatriating in the event of a catastrophe, attack, etc. This procedure may seem somewhat exaggerated, but cases such as the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic are an example that all precaution is too little.