US entry requirements for Australians visiting the United States


Even before the secutiry overhaul of America post 9/11, entry into the United States was, and still is today, strictly monitored by the government and controlled by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Agency. To know more about the entry procedures, it is recommended to contact your nearest Consulate or Embassy of the US if you are planning a trip to the US. However there are certain basic requirements that you need to comply with in order to get entry into the United States.

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency is in the process of dramatically overhauling the technology it is using to ensure speedy processing at some of its busiest entry points.

  • If your reason for visiting America is for a vacation or a business trip, you may be eligible to enter the country for a up to 90 days from your arrival under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). However if the purpose of your trip is to undertake academic study or obtain paid employment the VWP does not make you eligible to enter and you must obtain a visa before traveling.
  • When travelling under the VWP there are a number of requirements that must be met for Australian citizens to be eligible:
    • Apply for and receive authorisation to travel under via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
    • At a minimum have a Machine Readable Passport or an e-Passport (Biometric Passport)
    • Travel for leisure or business for 90 days or less
    • Have a minimum of 6 months validity
  • Australian citizens are unable to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program under the following circumstances:
    • Purpose of travel is to undertake paid work or study
    • Length of stay is to exceed 90 days
    • Have a criminal record
    • Have previously been denied a Visa or entry to the United States

Regardless of whether you are travelling via the VWP or on a valid Visa it is a requirement that every person is required to have a digital photo taken and their fingerprints recorded digitally upon arrival at their first port of call in America, whether they are arriving by air or sea.

Arriving into Los Angeles just prior to Immigration screening

The US Customs and Border Protection Agency is in the process of dramatically overhauling the technology it is using to ensure speedy processing at some of its busiest entry points. Los Angeles International Airport has recently installed new self-service kiosks which allow passengers who have previously entered the US on their biometric passport to quickly process their arrival and take their fingerprints and digital photo. It has been my experience that this has significantly decreased the processing time when arriving into Los Angeles.

All incoming passengers to the United States must complete immigration and customs clearance at the first port of call or arrival. For Australians this will more than likely be in either Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas or Honolulu.

Helpful US Visa resources recommends that you visit the following websites for further information relating to entry requirements for Australian Citizens to the United States:

U.S. State Department – Visa Waiver Program

Customs and Border Protection Agency

Customer and Border Protection Agency – Electronic System of Travel Authorization

US Embassy – Canberra

US Consulates in Australia – Sydney – Melbourne – Perth

Before planning a trip to the US, make sure you have all the required documents and consult the nearest US Consulate and Embassy. Visa processing times can vary based on the time of year, we strongly suggest leaving as much time as possible to ensure that you can secure a valid Visa before booking any non-refundable travel.


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