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Travel advice – United States

Entry and stay formalities

It is strongly recommended to regularly consult the website of the United States Embassy in France and to contact the airline in order to verify the measures it is adopting at its level.

In case of doubt about his situation, it is strongly advised to contact the American consular authorities in France before his departure, by writing to the following address: ParisVisaInquiry at the house of state.gov.

Visa-free stay

The Visa Waiver Program: Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Since April 1, 2016, only people holding an electronic or biometric passport can benefit from the visa waiver program (VWP) which allows French nationals to access American territory without a visa, but with an electronic travel authorization. (ESTA), either in transit, or for a tourist or business stay of up to 90 days (meaning the possibility of signing contracts, placing orders, participating in seminars or meeting clients).

Persons holding other passports must apply for a visa from the competent American diplomatic and consular authorities (cf. website of the United States Embassy in Paris).

NB : the emergency passport does not allow entry to the United States without a visa.

For more information on the types of passport, it is recommended to consult the Service-public.fr website.

Electronic travel authorization: ESTA

A French national who travels to the United States by air or sea and who benefits from the VWP must obligatorily request, via the Internet, an electronic travel authorization before departure (Electronic System for Travel Authorization – ESTA).

The ESTA can be obtained by answering the questions posed on the website (multilingual), only site authorized by the American authorities and allowing online payment by credit card.

The form is to be completed in English, but the instructions are available in French.

The request for authorization can be submitted at any time before the trip. The US Department of Homeland Security (Department of Homeland Security) however recommends completing this formality at least 72 hours before departure.

The ESTA allows travel within the framework of the VWP but does not constitute a right of entry into American territory, which remains granted or refused on arrival by the immigration officer.

The authorization is valid for 2 years from the date of issue, but must be renewed in the event of a change of situation (surname, first name, sex, nationality, passport, different answers to the questions asked, etc.), or if the date validity of the passport is less than this 2-year period. For any new trip during the period of validity of the authorization, it will be necessary to update certain information via the Internet (flight number and destination address) in your ESTA file and of course to travel with the passport declared on the ESTA form. .

Exclusion from the VWP of certain categories of travelers

Travelers who have been to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or Sudan since March 1, 2011 and people with Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationality cannot benefit from the visa waiver regime .

These people must apply for a B1/B2 visa valid, depending on the case, for several years from the American diplomatic and consular authorities.

Given the delivery times, it is recommended to anticipate these steps which can take several weeks.

According to the American administration, people who need an emergency visa for a business trip or for medical or humanitarian reasons will be able to benefit from accelerated processing of their visa application.

A permanent exception for full-time agents of the civil or military State administrations on official mission is implemented. These agents continue to benefit from the visa exemption to travel to the United States. The administration has also defined five other situations in which travelers who have visited the four countries concerned may continue to benefit from the visa exemption.

These situations concern travel:

  • on official business on behalf of an international, regional or sub-national organization;
  • on official mission on behalf of a humanitarian organization;
  • as a journalist;
  • for Iran, for legitimate business reasons, if the trip occurred after July 14, 2015;
  • for Iraq, for legitimate business reasons.

For these situations, the maintenance of the visa exemption will be decided on a case-by-case basis. Given the delays in obtaining this exemption, it is recommended to take steps to obtain the necessary guarantees from the American consular services at least two months in advance.

According to the American authorities, travelers who have declared the nationality of one of these seven countries and who already have an ESTA will be informed by email of its revocation, and invited to apply for a visa.

It is strongly recommended that other people affected by the reform who are planning a short-term trip to the United States apply for a visa as soon as possible. For people currently benefiting from an ESTA, it is possible to check their status at this address (multilingual).

Travelers affected by these restrictions, planning to travel to the United States in the longer term, are invited to consult, before booking their plane ticket, the website of the United States Embassy to keep themselves informed of the changes in Classes.

VWP Restrictions

The slightest overrun of the time allowed under the VWP during a previous trip to the United States results in immediate refoulement from the territory and, in general, a ban on re-entering American soil for a period that may be several years.

It does not allow the exercise of a professional activity (paid or not). Indeed, any Frenchman wishing to work must be provided, on leaving France, with a visa authorizing him to occupy a defined job.

The American immigration services show great vigilance with regard to the application of the regulations which prohibit the exercise of a professional activity, whether paid or not. It is therefore strongly recommended that French nationals entering the United States for tourism or language purposes avoid bringing or carrying anything that could create a misunderstanding or suspicion about the reasons for their stay, and which could suggest that they come for a purpose other than that declared.

The VWP does not allow you to register as a student under any circumstances, under penalty of administrative detention before the expiry of the visa. The questionnaires to be completed before entering American territory must be filled in precisely.

Any violation of the legislation in force exposes its author to expulsion and a ban on access to American territory for several years.

It does not allow a change of status on the spot (example: obtaining a visa to pursue studies or exercise a professional activity).

Stay with visa

A traveler who does not fall strictly within the framework of the VWP or who has not been able to obtain the ESTA must apply for a visa. It is recommended to submit your application several months before the departure date, given the processing times.

In the United States, family that can accompany a visa holder is only the married spouse and unmarried children. The de facto spouse, including PACS, is not recognized by the American immigration services and must either travel within the framework of the VWP under the conditions mentioned above, or apply for a visa which will be treated individually. An exception exists only for same-sex partners of A or G visa holders.

The French must therefore obtain a visa from the American consular authorities to travel to the United States:

  • for transit or a stay of less than 90 days when you do not have the type of passport required under the VWP;
  • for a stay of more than 90 days;
  • for stays whose purpose is neither tourism nor business, but corresponds to the exercise of a professional activity, an internship or studies.

NB : a medical examination is mandatory for foreigners applying for a long-stay visa in the United States. Anyone suffering from a contagious disease posing a threat to public health may be refused a visa.

Recommendations

According to US law, the validity of a foreign national’s passport must cover a period of six months beyond the date of their expected departure from the United States.

Pursuant to this law, the United States has signed agreements with countries, including France, under the terms of which their nationals are exempt from the 6-month requirement and need only present a valid passport covering the duration of their stay in United States.

More information on the website of the United States Embassy in Paris.

However, to avoid any complications, it is advisable, as a precaution, to have a passport with a validity of at least 6 months on the date scheduled for departure from the United States, even for holders of long-term visas. valid period: heavy fines have already been noted (over 500 USD).

CBP officers should not be joked with (Customs and Border Protection, Customs and Border Protection) or the police. Comments, attitudes or jokes that may seem harmless in some countries may lead to immediate arrest and prosecution in the United States.

Refusal of admission or visa

In the event of refusal of admission or visa, the Department of Homeland Security invites travelers who believe they have been unfairly treated to file a complaint online on the DHS website (TRIP procedure: Travelers Redress Inquiry Programin English).

Work for accommodation or “Wwoofing”

It is not possible to go to the United States with an Esta or a tourist visa to work against accommodation (do “wwoofing”). Even if this activity is unpaid, it is still considered a job and therefore requires obtaining a work visa. Exercising this activity without a work permit exposes you to a refusal of admission by the American immigration services and to a refusal of Esta for future stays.

Customs regulations

Sums over USD 10,000 must be declared to customs.

American customs are very vigilant about food products: entry with non-sterilized products (such as cheeses or charcuterie) or green plants is strictly prohibited.

Learn more on the US Customs website.

The constraints related to the possession of a domestic animal being rigorous, it is preferable to consult the Embassy of the United States of America before any project of trip or stay accompanied by a domestic animal.

Find out more on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture.

More information on the US Customs website.

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