Do European Citizens Need a Visa for USA?

Any travellers that are planning to visit the US in the future must be aware of the travel authorisation requirements that the US operates with. The US has a Visa System in place for non-US citizens who wish to travel to the US. However for citizens from certain countries, and many of the European countries, a visa is not required for tourism or business trips. This is because the US has an agreement with 39 countries that they are members of the Visa Waiver Program, which means they can visit the US using an ESTA instead.

The majority of the European countries are members of the Visa Waiver Program. Out of the current EU countries, only Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not included in the Visa Waiver Program and therefore the citizens from these countries must apply for a US visa.

Poland is the most recent country to be added to the VWP and conversations happen regularly between the US and the officials from the remaining non-VWP EU countries regarding becoming members, so they could become members in the future.

Benefits of using an ESTA

There are many benefits of being able to apply for an ESTA as opposed to applying for a US visa. For example, the process is a much quicker one and the ESTA can usually be applied for and confirmed within just a few hours.

Applying for a US visa on the other hand, involves attending an interview at the US embassy and completing a much longer form. The processing time for US visa can take weeks or even months, so for people that are just visiting the US for tourism or business purposes, the ESTA is a much more convenient option.

How to apply for an ESTA

An ESTA is an Electronic System for Travel Authorization and to apply for one, you must fill in a short online form that requests some personal details, passport details and other information such as medical history and any criminal convictions. The ESTA forms part of the US approach to maintaining security and screening of visitors entering the US, whilst still not making it too difficult for low-risk tourists to visit the country.

The US tourism industry is huge, with places like NYC, LA and Las Vegas being top travel destinations for citizens from Europe and the rest of the world. Therefore, the ESTA allows tourism and business trips for most EU citizens to be more straightforward than applying for a US visa.

What if I am not going to the US for tourism or business?

If you are planning to visit the US for a period of longer than 90 days, or for reasons that are not permitted under the ESTA, such as studying or employment, then you would need to apply for the relevant US visa instead of an ESTA. There are many different types of US visa, so you will need to check which one is the relevant one for the purposes of your visit and start the application process for the visa.


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