Flights to North America
Travel tips USA, Part 1: No departure if the number is wrong
Did you fill out the ESTA application correctly and pay the entry fee? We provide important tips before leaving for the USA.
The queue in front of the USA flight check-in counter is moving slowly. There are always delays because the papers for the trip to the USA are not correct. “Each transposed number causes problems at check-in and unnecessarily slows down the entire operation,” reports the spokeswoman for a German airline. “It’s particularly annoying when passengers simply neglect to check the validity of their passport.”
Expired passports or children’s passports are still considered harmless. Often the spelling of the names does not match, the printed ESTA entry permit or the ticket for the return flight is missing. This must be available and, if necessary, purchased at the airport before departure before the boarding pass can be issued. Since it is not the airline that is responsible for the travel permit, but each passenger himself, we have summarized the most important points to consider when traveling to the USA.
No visa but ESTA
For years, Germans, Austrians and Swiss no longer need a visa if they decide to stay in the USA for less than 90 days. However, prior to departure, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) form must be completed online. The German-language ESTA application can be found on the website of the US Department of Homeland Security: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Within a few minutes, the applicant will find out whether there could be any problems when entering the USA. If the entry permit is not granted online, this does not mean a final rejection. However, the person concerned must apply for a visa. An important detail that many families overlook when planning a trip to the USA: Children may only enter the country visa-free with a children’s passport if this was issued before October 26th, 2006 with a photo and has not been renewed since then. Otherwise, a visa is required – or a regular passport.
ESTA fee increase at the end of May 2022: from 14 to 21 US dollars
The ESTA authorization for visa-free travel, also known as the Visa Waiver Program, is valid for two years and entitles you to multiple entries into the USA. The fee of US$21 (US$4 for processing the immigration application and an additional US$17 for the permit) only has to be paid once for a new application. The USA only accepts Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover credit cards as a means of payment. Important: Even those who are just passing through need the ESTA permit when changing planes at a US airport (e.g. via Miami to Central America).
Attention: We urgently warn against similar websites that draw attention to their ESTA service via search engines and collect high processing costs.
The travel and safety instructions from the Federal Foreign Office in Berlin are also helpful when preparing for a trip to the USA.
No departure without data comparison
But the ESTA registration alone is not enough. Airlines are legally obliged to transmit data to the US authorities via the “Advance Passenger Information System” (APIS). Since November 2010, as part of the Secure Flight program, airlines have had to submit additional data from the passenger lists to the American Transportation Security Administration (TSA) no later than 72 hours before departure.
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This includes last name and all first names, as in the passport presented for entry, the date of birth and information on gender. It is important to pay attention to the exact spelling of the names, because any difference can lead to misunderstandings. The procedure is intended to avoid problems if passengers have similar names to people on the American TSA’s no-fly list.
The APIS data is collected at the time of booking at the travel agency or airline. These can be added later online on the Lufthansa homepage (“My bookings” > “Edit individual booking”). Airlines are asking passengers to provide them with Secure Flight or APIS details at least four days before departure (online or through the call center) – an important requirement for any US flight that is prone to being overlooked.
Also read Part 2 of the USA travel tips: “Entry with fingerprint only”