Yes, the time when your family members decided to immigrate to the USA was sad, but every cloud has a silver lining. Now they are settled in, it is time for a visit. Yep, before school is back in session, you can take a trip of a lifetime to the land of the free. Can’t wait? Of course you can’t! But, before you pack your bags and book your flights, there are boxes to tick. As a non-US citizen, you can’t rock up at immigration in the airport without gaining entry. Come on; it wasn’t possible under Obama, so Trump isn’t going to be any better.

To get into the country and enjoy the last throes of the American summer, you have to know the following. These are the things you have to do if you want to visit family in the United States.

Apply For An ESTA

It stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. Quite simply, it is the process available to the friends of the USA who want to vacation in the country. From the United Kingdom (obviously) to South East Asia and Australia, an ESTA allows entry for up to 90 days. The great thing is it permits a holiday without the green card selection or citizenship application. The form is easy to fill out, so all you have to do is go to the website and follow the instructions. A word of warning: double check your answers before sending off the application. If anything is wrong, the visa could be invalid on arrival.

Check Your Passport

The key word in the paragraph above is “friends” of the USA. Since January this year, it is quite clear to see who America’s friends aren’t. The Muslim Ban was controversial and showed the world which countries are banned. You might think, “I don’t agree with the politics, but I’m not from the Middle East so I’ll be fine,” yet that isn’t the case. America takes immigration from the likes of Syria, Iran, and Iraq seriously. In fact, it’s that serious that travelers with these stamps in their passports can’t enter the country. Even if the visit is for pleasure, the immigration officer won’t have any mercy. Therefore, if you have been to the blacklisted countries, a new passport will be necessary.

passport

Source: Flickr

Book A Flight Out Of The Country

Sounds obvious, right? I mean, who doesn’t book a return flight back to the place from which they traveled? Well, it turns out that the answer is quite a few people. Think of it this way: it isn’t often that you get to visit the Americas. As such, the idea of making your way down to Mexico and Central America or up to Canada could appeal. Obviously, if you go up or down, you aren’t going to want to book a return flight. The thing is that part of the ESTA agreement is that you have a flight out of the country. It doesn’t have to be a return to the same place, but it does need to show that you will leave before the 90 day period. If you plan on continuing your travels, make sure a flight is in place before you land in the US of A.

Check Out The Law

Not many people consider checking out the law before they travel, but it is a good idea. For one thing, looking into a family visit visa will aid the application process. Even if there is one piece of information, it might be the difference between making a mistake and acing the test. More importantly, it gives an insight into the laws of the country and what you can expect. Coming from outside of America, it is easy to forget about JAYWalking or the right to bear arms. Then, you land, and you are confronted with pistols and angry police officers and don’t know how to act. The laws of the country might be good, they might be bad, but having a general grasp is essential. It will help you avoid trouble and have a great time while you are on vacation. There’s no reason to study like a wannabe lawyer, but reading an overview won’t hurt. Remember that laws can change depending on the state, so be careful.

Remember The Fee

Unlike the same visa in Australia, you have to pay for the privilege. To most people, this won’t come as a shock because nothing is free these days. And, the total of $14 is not likely to make you think twice about your visit. However, you should remember to pay the amount beforehand. If you like to fill in forms willy-nilly, your credit or debit card or PayPal login details might not be to hand. Unless you know them off by heart, there is no other way to pay and you won’t be able to finish the application. Big deal, right? You’ll just do it again some other time. Well, the information deletes itself after 30 to 40-minutes so that isn’t possible either. When you begin the process, make sure you have everything to hand, including a valid payment option.

Take Proof With You To The Airport

Filling out an e-form isn’t enough for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services. They want evidence that you can enter the country, and they want it all. So, a receipt of payment for an ESTA is not enough in their eyes. You will also need a fixed address, evidence of a return flight, and proof that you don’t plan on working. Printing off the relevant forms is a good option, as is saving them on your phone. If you do use your phone, however, make sure it has a full charge. Not only will they not let you into the country, but they will take away your phone. If you can’t prove it works, they don’t let them on airplanes.

When you cover these bases, the trip should go smoothly.