Immigration regulations for the USA

What you should consider

Find out what the immigration regulations for the USA are in plenty of time. Check to see whether you meet the requirements for visa-free immigration, as otherwise you will require a visa. You will find all the necessary information here.

Requirements for visa-free immigration into the USA

Anyone who wishes to enter the USA must have a visa. Under certain conditions, passengers may enter without a visa. In order to do this, you must meet the following requirements:

Member countries in the Visa Waiver Programme

There are currently 37 countries in the Visa Waiver Programme, including Switzerland. Nationals from these countries may enter the USA without a visa and remain there for up to 90 days.

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Passport requirements

Anyone who wishes to enter the USA without a visa must have a valid passport. The passport must be valid for the period of intended stay. Other passport requirements depend on the date your passport was issued:

  • Passports that were issued before 26.10.2005 must have a machine-readable zone
  • Passports that were issued between 26.10.2005 and 25.10.2006 must have a machine-readable zone and a digital passport photograph
  • Anyone travelling with a passport that was issued after 26 October 2006 must also have an e-passport for visa-free immigration. It is identified by a white symbol on the front. The e-passport has a chip on which the holder's fingerprints and a picture of his/her face are stored electronically.

Information on these regulations at www.dhs.gov

ESTA travel authorization

For visa-free immigration into the USA, it is essential that you have the ESTA electronic travel authorisation.You will not be allowed to enter the country without this document. You must apply for the travel authorisation at least 72 hours before departure. It is valid for two years and allows repeated entries into the country provided your passport does not expire during this period. You can update your details and travel destinations on the ESTA website at any time. There is a charge for these changes of US$ 14 per entry.

ESTA-Reisegenehmigung beantragen oder Daten aktualisieren

API data collection

Airlines are obliged to transmit the details of all passengers to the US authorities on the day of departure. This is done using the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). The information that is recorded includes your name, passport number and the address where you will be staying in the USA. Specific and complete details will spare you any unpleasantness at your destination airport. The easiest thing to do is to transmit your data online in advance. If this is not possible, the details will be taken at the check-in machine or when you check-in at a counter.

Collect APIS details online

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)

Anyone entering the USA is obliged to provide their details to the US Transportation Security Administration (TSA). This information is then compared with the "watch lists". These details consist of the full name, date of birth and gender (legal basis 49 U.S.C. item 114 of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 and 49 C.F.R parts 1540 and 1560). People who do not provide this information may be refused carriage or admission to the gate. Travellers with a redress number must provide it.

The TSA may compare the data you provide with data from penal facilities, news agencies and other authorities (in accordance with the published system of records notices).

You will find full information on the TSA privacy policy, the system of records notices and the data privacy compatibility assessments at www.tsa.gov.