Traveling to the United States

The United States is the third country in the world both by population and by territorial extension. Great protagonist of the economy and central country in modern culture. For its part, tourism in the United States is a major industry that welcomes millions of national and international tourists every year. Foreigners visit the United States to see natural wonders, cities, historic landmarks, and entertainment venues. At the airports of New York, Miami, Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington DC, and San Francisco most of these tourists arrive. Do you have a trip booked to the USA? Do you already know how US customs checks are done? In this article, we give 9 tips to better prepare and safely overcome the last step before breathing the American way of life.

  1. Remember to register for an ESTA

Most visitors can enter the United States with an electronic travel authorization.

If you are planning a vacation for a period of fewer than 90 days, for pleasure, business or you are in transit in the USA to a third destination and if you are a citizen of one of the countries included in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP or Visa Waiver Program ), among them Italy, you will not need a formal visa, but an ESTA.

The procedure for obtaining your ESTA GOV  has a cost of USD 74.00, payable by credit card or Paypal, and can be completed completely online from this link.

Although it is generally recommended to submit the application 3 days before departure. It is preferable to request it before booking the flight and/or hotel, as soon as your flight ticket has been issued.

The ESTA is valid for 2 years from the date of issue, allows multiple entries, and greatly simplifies your travel and formalities upon your arrival in the USA.

  1. Check your passport

All the countries participating in the VWP issue passports already in compliance with the latest international regulations for the security and control of passenger flows.

To apply for ESTA you must check if your passport is of the “electronic passport” type, which includes an integrated chip that can store personal information from the data page, a digital photograph, and other biometric information. In this article, we deepen the topic.

Although this is unlikely by now, if your passport is not electronic you will need to obtain a visa instead.

  1. Departing from the Italian airport or Schengen area

Once at the airport, during the security checks due before proceeding to the boarding gate of your flight you will need to:

  • remove the laptop, tablet, or any other electronic device from the bag and also pass it through the X-rays;
  • make sure that electronic devices have enough battery in case the officer asks you to turn it on (the new rules aim to make sure that the batteries have not been turned into explosives);
  • go through a scanner for a full-body scan;
  • you may be asked to remove your shoes, belts and pass them through the appropriate security scanner;

The scanners are available in different versions in all major European airports. And it should be remembered that in America the procedure is valid for both domestic and international travelers.

While this last point raised controversy regarding the violation of personal privacy, it made checks much faster.

If you have any health problems (prosthesis, heart pacemaker, etc.). We recommend that you report this to the officer before going through the body scanner. But remember, you will not be able to refuse to pass this check unless medical reasons are certified by a doctor.

For more information on travel from the Schengen area to the United States see the link page.

  1. Upon arrival in the United States, passport control

Whenever a traveler enters a country (including returning to their own) it is obviously necessary to go through customs controls.

Once landed in the United States, the American Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agents who ensure security at the airport are very friendly but remain extremely vigilant and loyal to their duty.

Before you collect your bags or leave the airport, you need to take a quick exam by an immigration officer to determine that your intention to visit the United States is valid. Usually, this is a formality that lasts less than a minute: you will be asked the reason for the trip, how long you are staying, etc.

It may seem like out-of-ordinary advice but in order to have a smooth security check. It is advisable to put your humor aside and avoid making jokes. Be direct in your answers (if anything is asked of you): an attitude of total collaboration is the right one.

Any joke could be misinterpreted and a suspicious attitude can lead to very thorough security checks.

  1. Biometric identification

Furthermore, a photo of foreign travelers is usually taken and fingerprints are taken.

Also in this step, it is advisable to collaborate with the CBP agents and avoid any jokes.

  1. US Customs Form

US Customs requires you to fill out your form, as shown in the image below. The US Customs Form is known as 6059B. It has a distinctive blue color and is shaped like a long, narrow rectangle. This customs model has distributed onboard all flights to the United States or at check-in, before boarding.

All travelers need to complete one, including American citizens, residents, visitors, and visa holders. If you are traveling with relatives, only a single customs declaration is sufficient for the whole family.

  1. Something to declare? US customs inspection

Passport control passed, baggage collected, completed form 6059B. Now it is time for the customs control carried out by the CBP agents.

By the way, we recommend watching this video produced by CBP, in English. It explains not only the American customs control but all the stages of your arrival in the USA:

International visitors are allowed some exemptions regarding the transport of certain items (gifts, tobacco, personal effects, etc.) without incurring customs taxes. In fact, it is possible to take with you without having to pay:

  • personal effects;
  • cameras, video cameras, binoculars for personal use;
  • 1 liter of wine or liqueur (but not in hand luggage!)
  • 10 packs of cigarettes;
  • 2 kg of tobacco or 50 cigars.

Money is also subject to restrictions: if you enter the United States with more than USD 10,000 in currency or ‘monetary instruments’ it is mandatory to declare it.

  1. What foods can I bring to the United States?

As a general rule, it is necessary that all food products are vacuum packed and declared in form 6059B.

In addition to the above limitations, please note that travelers are not allowed to enter with fresh meat, vegetables, or fruit (raw, unprocessed products).

However, it is allowed to bring packaged foods such as biscuits, bread, and baked goods in general (as long as the package is still sealed) while the meat is always prohibited, even packaged.

For more information, we recommend reading this article dedicated to the topic of what you can bring in your luggage.

  1. If you are traveling with your pets

A certificate of good health is generally not required, although we recommend it. Although some airlines or states may require it.

On their entry into the USA, pets are still subjected to checks and may be denied access if they show evident signs of an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans.

Furthermore, if you are traveling with your dog, it is always mandatory to carry a certificate showing that they have been vaccinated against rabies at least 30 days before entering the United States (the rule also applies to guide dogs for the blind).

The same certificate is recommended, but not mandatory, in the case of cats.

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