General advice on entry regulations to the USA
Find out about the USA’s entry regulations in good time. Check whether you fulfil the requirements for visa-free entry; otherwise, the visa requirement applies. All the necessary information can be found here.
Current regulations on entering the USA
Anyone travelling to the USA must present a negative Covid-19 test before departure (PCR test or antigen test). The test cannot be older than 72 hours and must be available in electronic or paper form at the time of departure. The obligation to get tested applies to all travellers above the age of two. Additionally, all travellers over the age of two have to wear medical masks when going to or coming from the USA.
For more information on entry, required certificates and links to online forms, please see our travel regulations.
Requirement for visa-free entry into the USA
- You are a citizen of a country that participates in the USA’s Visa Waiver Programme. These nationalities can enter the USA without a visa and stay there for up to 90 days.
- You possess an ESTA travel permit.
For visa-free entry into the USA it is obligatory that you produce the electronic travel permit ESTA. Without the travel permit, you will be denied entry. You can make an application up to 72 hours before departure at the latest. The travel permit is valid for 2 years and several entries, provided your passport does not expire within the period.
Further information about the Visa Waiver Programme as well as ESTA registration can be found via the following link:
- Your passport fulfils the criteria demanded by the USA:
Data collection and transfer
For flights to the USA, airlines are legally obliged to transfer passenger data to the US authorities via the "Advance Passenger Information System" (APIS) on the day of departure. In addition to passport details, the following information is required:
- Country of residence
- Complete address of first place of stay during US trip:
- Postcode (ZIP code)
The easiest way to transfer your data is online before you start your journey via the following link:
If this is not possible, it will be collected at check-in.
This rule does not apply to passengers with a permanent resident permit (‘Green Card’) or to transit passengers.
In accordance with the requirements of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you are obliged to provide your full name, date of birth and gender for the purpose of watch list screening. You may also provide your redress number, if available. Failure to provide your full name, date of birth, and gender may result in denial of transport or denial of authority to enter the boarding area. The TSA may exchange the data provided by you with law enforcement agencies, intelligence services and other organisations under its published system of records. You can find further information about the TSA’s data protection guidelines, its records system and the implications in the context of data protection on the TSA website at www.tsa.gov
Accelerated entry procedure
Currently two automated procedures are in use in the USA that accelerate entry: Global Entry and Automated Passport Control (APC).
Global Entry is particularly suitable for passengers who travel to the United States frequently.
Global Entry is only possible upon payment of a fee and after being vetted by the US Customs and Border Protection authorities (CBP) and the respective authorities of the applicant’s own country. After a successful background check, the permit is issued for five years.
Automated Passport Control (APC)
APC can be used at several US airports free of charge and without advance registration. It is available exclusively to citizens of the USA, Canada and states participating in the Visa Waiver Programme. This programme facilitates visa-free entry to tourists and business travellers who are staying in the USA for a maximum of 90 days. Upon arrival, use the machines provided for this purpose.
To use the APC procedure, eligible citizens require a biometric passport, a valid ESTA registration (electronic entry authorisation) and a digital customs declaration. They must have travelled to the USA at least once since 2008. Passengers with a visa or Green Card cannot participate.
With TSA Pre-Check, departing from American airports becomes considerably easier. Registered travellers receive a ‘Known Traveller Number’ (KTN) which must be presented at check-in for every flight and which provides them with a number of benefits.
- TSA Pre-Check registered travellers can use the preferential security controls that have been reserved for them
- Shorter waiting times at the security controls
- Shoes, liquids, laptops, jackets and belts do not have to be removed
- Children below 12 years of age may not accompany TSA Pre-Check travellers
Those who can participate:
- all members of the Global Entry programme (currently including German citizens)
- US citizens
- Canadian citizens
- Green Card holders
Registering with the TSA costs USD 85 and, as a result of a successful application, passengers enjoy TSA Pre✓ status for five years.
More information about TSA Pre✓: