Visitors from Visa Waiver Program Countries

Most visitors from Western Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea will enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Citizens of over thirty countries are eligible for the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, which allows them to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa, if certain requirements are met. Under the VWP, time spent in Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands counts towards the maximum stay of 90 days.

To enter under the VWP, you must have a machine-readable passport (one with two lines of letters and numbers along the bottom of the photo page). If you have a recently-issued passport, it must also have a chip in it. If you enter the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program, you are waiving your right to appeal or contest a decision not to let you enter the U.S. – ie. the immigration officer has the final say as to whether you can enter the U.S., and you have no right of appeal. It is recommended to dress smartly and be polite to the immigration officer. Do not under any circumstances suggest you may be seeking work, getting married to a U.S. citizen, or intending to stay longer than 90 days in the U.S. as this is not permitted under the Visa Waiver Program – you need to get a proper visa (see below).

The I-94W “visa waiver” is a green form which is stapled into your passport. To obtain the waiver, you will be photographed and fingerprinted. The I-94W must be returned at the end of your trip (see instructions on the form); if you return home without surrendering the I-94W, you may have problems entering the U.S. on future trips. (More information about the VWP.)
Visa Waiver Program When Arriving By Air or By Sea

If plan to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program by air or by sea, you must use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to apply for pre-approval prior to checking in for your flight. Although most requests are approved within minutes, it is recommended that you apply at least 72 hours in advance; the approval is valid for two years. (To best safeguard your personal information, you may wish to apply from your home computer.)

An ESTA approval does not guarantee you will be admitted to the United States; the final decision rests with the Customs and Border Protection officer at the port of entry. (More information about ESTA.)

The Visa Waiver Program applies even if you’re only making an international flight connection in a U.S. airport. Where forms ask for your address while in the United States, write “In Transit”.

If you are flying from Canada, see the notes about security measures in Canadian airports for U.S.-bound flights under “Visitors with Canadian Citizenship”, above.
Visa Waiver Program When Arriving By Land

If you are entering the United States by land from Canada or Mexico, you will obtain your I-94W visa waiver form at the border crossing. There is a fee of $6 U.S. per person. On average the process takes 30-60 minutes, though it can take two or three hours at very busy times.

You do not require a pre-approval through ESTA (described above) when entering the U.S. by land.

See this discussion page (answer #7) for an understandable explanation of the VWP.…

Visitors Requiring Visas

If you do not fit any of the other categories listed on this page (citizen of the United States, Canada, or Mexico, entering under the Visa Waiver Program, or a Lawful Permanent Resident of the U.S.), you require a visa to visit the United States. For example, a tourist with Greek citizenship requires a visa, as does a U.K. citizen who wants to study, work, or stay for more than 90 days in the United States.

A visa tells the United States government who you are, why you are traveling to America, when you are arriving and when you plan to leave. To obtain a visa for travel to (or through) the United States, you must fill out an application for a visa and submit it to the American embassy in your country. Application forms and details are available at the U.S. State Department’s website.

There are a few things you should know about obtaining a visa. First of all, the approval rate for visa applicants is very high (about 75%), and even higher for those applying for student visas. However, a visa does not guarantee entrance to American borders. At the port-of-entry where you clear immigration, the immigration officer present has the final say on whether you may enter the country. The visa only tells the immigration staff the purpose for your travel to that port-of-entry. That said, it is rare for a traveler with a valid visa to be held at the borders.

Returning United States Citizens

Take note: changes in U.S. law took effect June 1, 2009; you can no longer cross the border with only a birth certificate and driver’s licence. Also, as a United States citizen traveling to another country, you need to meet that country’s entry requirements.

You’ll find helpful tips for crossing the border to Canada or to Mexico here on TripAdvisor.
Traveling By Air or From Overseas

Present one of:

All U.S. Citizens
(Including Infants)

U.S. Passport
NEXUS card (pre-approved low-risk travelers, via participating Canadian airports only)
Merchant Mariner Document
U.S. Armed Forces ID and military orders

If you are flying from Canada, see the notes about security measures in Canadian airports for U.S.-bound flights under “Visitors with Canadian Citizenship”, above.

Traveling By Land or By Sea

(from Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean)
Traveler Present one of:
Adult with U.S. Citizenship

U.S. Passport
U.S. Passport Card
Enhanced Driver’s License/ID (EDL) (available in MI, NY, VT, WA; also proposed in AZ, CA, TX)
NEXUS/FAST/SENTRI card (pre-approved low-risk travelers only)
Merchant Mariner Document
U.S. Armed Forces ID and military orders

Cruise Ship Passengers
with U.S. Citizenship

For passengers on closed-loop cruises (cruises that begin and end at the same U.S. port):

U.S. Passport
U.S. Passport Card
Enhanced Driver’s License/ID (EDL) (available in MI, NY, VT, WA; also proposed in AZ, CA, TX)
NEXUS/FAST/SENTRI card (pre-approved low-risk travelers only)
Merchant Mariner Document
U.S. Armed Forces ID and military orders

Note that you may require a passport to go ashore at some foreign ports of call. Check with your cruise line.

Children with U.S. Citizenship

For children 15 or younger (or 16-18 years old and traveling with an organized and supervised school, religious, or other youth group):

one of the documents allowed for adults (listed above)
a U.S. birth certificate (original, photocopy, or certified copy) — photo ID is not required
U.S. consular report of birth abroad
Certificate of U.S. Naturalization

For children not traveling with both parents, see “Traveling With Children” at the bottom of this page.

For more info on the border requirements that took effect June 1, 2009, see

Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.

Lawful Permanent Residents of the United States must present their I-551 (“Green Card”) when entering the U.S. You do not require a passport to enter the U.S. by air, land, or sea.

However, your airline may require you to have a passport to board an international flight, and you will need a passport to visit most countries. (One exception: you can use your I-551 to enter Canada, without a visa, regardless of your citizenship.)

You can lose your “green card” status if you leave the United States for a long time. Expect extra questions if you’re gone for more than six months; if you’re going to be absent from the United States for more than a year, you should apply for a re-entry permit before departing.
Border Crossing Tips
Wait Times

For land border crossings, please allow at least 30 minutes at the port of entry, and expect a longer wait at the busiest times. Border Wait Times can be checked online.

At airports, the average waiting time to clear customs is about 30 minutes.
Traveling With Children

Because of concerns about child abduction, customs officers may ask for additional information when a child is traveling without both of their parents. Carrying the right documentation can help resolve these questions quickly.
Bringing Souvenirs, Food, Etc. Across the Border

U.S. residents should see Know Before You Go for information about duty-free exemptions and other rules that apply to goods you buy outside the United States.

Visitors to the United States should be aware of rules that apply to bringing restricted goods and food across the border.
Crossing the Border from San Diego

You can drive to the border, park in the parking lot (lock doors and use extra security like the Club) and walk over (recommended) or drive your car to Mexico. If you drive, there is the possibility of being asked for a bribe by Mexican police.

Remember that your U.S. insurance is not valid so you’ll have to purchase Mexican Insurance, which you can do right at the border. Most people choose not to drive and walk over and hop into one of the cabs. You should haggle the cab fare. There are also buses/ trolleys that will take you into town and back to the border. Lots of people speak English, so no need to worry if you can’t speak Spanish.

United States: Crossing the Border

A little preparation will help simplify the process of entering the United States. For the documents you need to enter the United States, scroll down to the section that matches your situation:

General tips for a hassle-free border crossing are found at the end of this article.

Visitors with Canadian Citizenship

Take note: changes in U.S. law took effect June 1, 2009; you can no longer cross the Canada/U.S. border with only a birth certificate and driver’s licence.
When flying from a Canadian airport into the U.S., it’s prudent to arrive three hours before your flight due to heightened security measures.

There’s a limit of one carry-on bag, plus one personal item: a purse, laptop, or camera bag. (Some additional items, such as medical devices, diaper bags, and pets, are exempt from these limits.) See the CATSA web site for details. Expect more intensive security screening for U.S.-bound flights, including full bag searches and the use of full-body scanners.

Almost all Canadian airports with flights to the United States have “pre-clearance”, meaning you will clear U.S. Customs and Immigration before boarding the plane and arrive in the U.S. as a “domestic” flight. This does lengthen the check-in process, so make sure you arrive with plenty of time before your flight. You’ll also need to have the street address of your hotel (or wherever you’re staying) handy to fill out the customs form.

Traveling By Land or By Sea
A passport (or NEXUS card) is required to cross the border by air. This applies if your trip includes a flight between a Canadian and American airport (in either direction). However, if you have an Enhanced Driver’s Licence, you can still drive across the Canada/U.S. border and take a domestic flight (e.g. drive Toronto to Buffalo, fly round-trip Buffalo/Orlando, drive back to Toronto).

For typical leisure or business trips to the United States, Canadians do not need to worry about any paperwork before arriving at the border. An immigration application is required for Canadians working or studying in the United States, or staying for more than six months.

Canadians who hold a U.S. “green card” should see the section “Lawful Permanent Residents of the U.S.”, below.

Enabling Legislation for Tourism and Travels in New York

“The Office of Travel & Tourism shall serve as the principal agency for promoting the recreational, cultural, historic and scenic resources of the Commonwealth to increase its desirability as a location for tourism, convention, travel, and recreation-related activities by providing informational, marketing and technical assistance to public and private nonprofit entities organized for similar purposes.”

Chapter 23A: Section 13B

The Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism (MOTT) is the state agency dedicated to promoting Massachusetts as friendly, family-oriented destination set in the midst of rich historical and cultural tradition. MOTT’s budget is derived from a portion of the state hotel room occupancy tax and is therefore responsible for encouraging overnight stays, as well as increasing tourism related spending and payroll. MOTT serves as a leader in the tourism industry, bringing together the public and private sectors to promote Massachusetts as a leisure destination.

More than 31 million people visit Massachusetts each year who spend approximately $11.2 billion, making tourism the third largest industry in the Commonwealth. The industry generated $750.7 million in state tax revenues and supported 124,800 jobs in 2003.

The Department of Business and Technology (DBT)
The Department of Business & Technology is the executive branch that oversees MOTT as well as:

Massachusetts Office of Business Development
State Office of Minority and Women Business Assistance
Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment

Fast Facts about MOTT

Executive Director Paul J. Sacco
Employees: 13
2006 Budget:
Total: $7.8 million

MOTT administers an $8 million grant program for the 13 Regional Tourist Councils.

MOTT conducts extensive research to understand travel trends and sharpen the effectiveness of MOTT’s domestic marketing efforts. The market size and resulting economic impacts are substantial.

Market size: During 2004, Massachusetts attracted an estimated 29.8 million domestic travelers. [Source: TIA’s TravelScope.]
More than 31 million people visit Massachusetts each year who spend approximately $11 billion, making tourism one of the largest industries in the Commonwealth. The industry generated $750 million in state tax revenues and supported 124,800 jobs in 2003.
[Source: TIA’s Economic Impact of Travel on State Economies, 2003].

19th Annual Governors Conference on Travel & Tourism

Sheraton Springfield Hotel

Join your colleagues in the tourism and hospitality industries as we come together for the most important annual gathering of travel businesses in Massachusetts. This jam-packed two-day conference promises to be the best ever and will offer quality keynote addresses, breakout sessions and networking opportunities designed to keep you informed about the current state of the industry, marketing trends and the latest research on this 11 billion dollar industry for Massachusetts.

Highlights include:

Keynote Presenter Biographies

Breakout sessions featuring:

Breakout Presenter Biographies

Also, Marketing your On-Line Press Room, Customer Relationship Marketing, Rural Tourism Development, Effective Marketing to the Gay and Lesbian Market, Return on Investment and International Marketing!

Click here to see our Program At A Glance


Now all registration and payment for the conference is on-line. This efficient and extremely secure process will make your registration experience as easy as it can possibly be. No more cumbersome registration forms, check writing or stamps. You can pay using your favorite credit or debit card, and for transactions in excess of $500 you can pay by electronic check. You may also register for yourself or for everyone in your organization, in single or multiple registration categories, and pay for it all in one easy payment transaction. NEW this year: you can access your registration on-line to amend or upgrade your registration. You can purchase a sponsorship, a table in our marketplace, or tickets and tables to the Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony.

There are three simple registration categories for 2006:

12:15 pm: Luncheon and Keynote Presentation

2:30 pm: Coffee Service

3:00 pm: Concurrent Workshops

5:00 pm: Wine Tasting and Informal Networking Session

6:00 pm: Reception

7:30 pm: Gala Dinner and Awards Ceremony

Thursday, March 30

8:30 am: Breakfast, Remarks and Keynote Presentation

9:45 am: Coffee Service

10:00 am: Concurrent Workshops

12:00 pm: Luncheon and Keynote Presentation


Keynote Presenters:

Wednesday, March 29, Breakfast: Mark V. Lomanno is President of Smith Travel Research (STR), the leading authority on current trends in occupancy, room rate and supply/demand data for the U.S. and the North American lodging industries. Mr. Lomanno serves on the advisory boards of the HSMAI Foundation, Travel Industry of America, The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University, and He writes a monthly column for Hotel Motel Management magazine. Because of his in-depth understanding of current industry issues Mr. Lomanno is asked to give numerous speeches at industry seminars and hotel company meetings throughout the year. He is also a frequent guest lecturer at the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University. Prior to joining STR, Mr. Lomanno was National Director of Research for Laventhol & Horwath and has over twenty years of experience in lodging industry research.

Wednesday, March 29, Luncheon: Valerie Oberle, President, The Oberle Group has executive leadership experience in human resource management, training and development, employee communication, business and alliance development, and resort and theme park operations. Prior to forming her own company in 1997, she was one of the first women to be named Vice President at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida, where she was responsible for the world-renowned Disney University.

Thursday, March 30, Breakfast: Michael A. Leven, President & Chief Executive Officer, US Franchise Systems, has spent his entire 44-year career in the hotel industry. Prior to forming US Franchise Systems, Inc. in 1995 – which franchises the Microtel Inns & Suites, Hawthorn Suites, and America’s Best Inns & Suites hotel brands – he was president and chief operating officer of Holiday Inn Worldwide. From 1985 to 1990, Leven was president of Days Inn of America, where he led Days’ initiatives to hire older workers, people with disabilities and the homeless, and was recognized by AARP as “Outstanding Employer.” Leven also served as president of Americana Hotels.

Thursday, March 30, Luncheon: Rudy Maxa is one of America’s premier consumer travel experts whose writings and radio and television shows have helped save thousands of travelers both time and money. A former Washington Post investigative reporter and life-long traveler, Rudy began covering the travel industry 13 years ago for public radio’s evening business show, “Marketplace” where his bi-weekly commentaries under his moniker, “The Savvy Traveler,” are currently heard by nearly five million listeners.

Concurrent Seminars, Wednesday, March 29:

Marketing Your Online Press Room: Professor Sreenath Sreenivasan teaches at Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism where he is the Dean of students, in charge of the school’s new media/web journalism program and also teaches workshops in “Smarter Surfing: Better Use of Your Web Time” in newsrooms and educational institutions around the US and abroad. He is a regular on WABC-7’s Tech Guru Segments discussing technology trends, and he has written for The New York Times, Time Digital and Rolling Stone.

Customer Relationship Marketing: Jeff Freedman, Marketing Principal, Small Army. As Co-Founder and Marketing Principal of Small Army, Jeff drives client strategy, technology marketing initiatives and account service. His fourteen years in the business began planning and buying more than $100 million of media at Hill, Holliday for accounts that included Wang, Lotus and Hyatt hotels. From there he joined technology and B2B specialist DRK Advertising as head of media and research then rolled the dice with start up Cohn Godley Norwood as the fourth member of the team. In addition to running media and research at CGN, Jeff also founded the interactive department at a time when few clients had ever heard of the web. Bringing a marketing discipline to a technology offering, he developed sites that included Chevy Chase Bank, Stein Roe, Web Marketing Association, Salomon Smith Barney, CompUSA and launched the first U.S. based Broadvision sites for Liberty Financial Companies.

Rural Tourism Development: Peter Jorgenson, Founder and Principle of Heartland Consulting in Decorah, Iowa, provides services to organizations seeking to develop and enhance their programs in heritage tourism. As Group Travel Manager for the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area, Peter began a program in agritourism in 1999 that has received national attention. Now with nearly 100 working farms and agribusinesses in the 37-county area open to motor coach groups, the program was a finalist in the Travel Industry Association of America’s Odyssey Award for Cultural Heritage in 2004 and received a Tourism Cares for Tomorrow grant in 2005. He also serves on the National Tour Association Advisory Board for Cultural Enrichment and has had articles published in The Group Travel Leader, NTA Courrier, Group Tour Magazine and Student Group Tour Magazine.

Effective Marketing to the Gay and Lesbian Market: Thomas R. Roth is founder and President of Community Marketing Inc, a San Francisco based independent gay market research and communications company. Utilizing Mr. Roth’s experience, marketing skills, MBA training and innovative approaches, Community Marketing, Inc. develops products and services to help clients reach and serve the gay and lesbian community. Included in Community Marketing, Inc.’s portfolio of services developed by Mr. Roth is the Gay & Lesbian World Travel Expo series in major markets; the International Conference on Gay & Lesbian Tourism; Gay Travel News consumer newsletter; the annual Gay & Lesbian Travel Industry Directory for travel professionals, and speaking engagements at conventions, conferences and trade shows including ATME, IACVB, IGLTA, HSMAI, WTM, NTA and The Travel Institute (formerly ICTA), among others.

Return on Investment: Denise Miller, Vice President, Strategic Marketing & Research, Inc. was in the first class of women admitted to Notre Dame University where she majored in Asian studies and spent a school year in Japan. Her attachment to adventure has led to a keen interest in travel and tourism in both her personal and professional life. Denise has served as leader of three different visitors bureaus – including Director of Indiana Tourism Division. In 1992. She has won a number of awards from the Travel & Tourism Research Association for her efforts. As Vice President at SMRI, Denise has pioneered many initiatives, primarily in the travel and tourism industry. She continues to seek out new clients, design research methodologies, supervise implementation of projects, analyze data and consult with clients on ways to put the findings to work.