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Foreign Travelers – Entry Into the United States

Unlike most countries around the World, the United States requires all air passengers to enter the country before getting a connecting flight onto their final destination outside the USA. You will need to complete a visa as if you were staying in the U.S. When passing through Customs, you will be asked to present your passport. Then, you will need to pass through a security line before boarding a plane to depart the U.S. Since this is often a time-consuming process, be wary of scheduling a connecting flight close to your arrival time in the U.S.

Passports and Visas

A passport and a visa are the two critical documents you will need to enter the United States. The process for obtaining a passport varies from country to country, and you will have to work through your home country’s own foreign ministry to secure one.

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 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.

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 entry into the U.S. 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 tells the immigration staff the purpose for your travel to that port-of-entry. It is rare for a traveler with a valid visa to be held at the borders.

If you are from one of 27 (mostly Western European) countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program, you don’t need a visa to enter the U.S. You can stay for up to 90 days. 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. For example, the immigration officer has the final say as to whether you can enter the U.S. and you have no right of appeal.

Due to high security and to prevent illegal immigration, at the port of entry, the immigration process includes taking pictures and information of non-U.S. citizen/residents who enter so the government can track visitors who enter and leave the United States. This process may take at least 30 minutes at the port of entry.

Entry into the U.S. from Canada

As of January of 2007, it is a requirement for Canadian citizens who wish to visit the U.S. to present a passport at the border. Bring your birth certificate and a picture ID, such as a driver’s license. Passports are mandatory for air travel into the U.S. and will be for ground travel into the U.S. as of 2008. However, it is recommended that you bring your Canadian Passport anyways. Using your Canadian Passport will get you through customs more efficiently.

Hilary Basile is a writer for At, you will find valuable tips and resources for handling life’s major events. Whether you’re planning a wedding, buying your first home, anxiously awaiting the birth of a child, contending with a divorce, searching for a new job, or planning for your retirement, you’ll find answers to your questions at, part of the network of sites, provides comprehensive information for those living, working and traveling in the United States via 50 individual state portals. Find state information at

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(Watch the video this is a response to for the full detailed story.) Well, my trip to the US got cut short. Waaaay short. So short it ended before it had even really begun. I’m sick of the handcuffs already. Thank you to the people who tried to help me while they had me locked up and for being an ear when I needed one. You know who you are. It really meant a lot and helped me not freak out as much. It’s a shame they denied me access and sent me home. I think I would have really enjoyed your country. One day I may fight this and try again.. Or maybe I’ll just go to bloody Canada. 🙂 I’ll explain this all in more ranty detail soon when I get the energy. * A lot of people have been asking about me saying I was “banned from the US” and about the terrorism thing.. just some info on that. I am permanently banned from entering the US under the Visa Waiver program. What I have to do now if I want to try to come back is apply for a special tourist visa through the American Embassy. Even if this is approved there is no guarantee I won’t be sent back AGAIN when I get there. And they certainly don’t look less suspiciously on someone who has already been denied entry before. I was obviously cleared of any suspicion of terrorism after investigation or I wouldn’t be back right now.. however they still found other reasons to send me home and deny me access to the US. I’ll be talking about these reasons in upcoming videos and why they were baseless and unfair. Will post more videos on
Video Rating: 4 / 5

Question by : Will my Canadian youth record prevent me from going into the states? Will they ask if I have a record at all?
So I’m planning a trip for July 2013 and I need to know if my youth record will get in the way at all.

I was a was a ward of the state / crown ward that has mental health issues & between the ages of 12 & 16 I inquired a handful of charges. All seem to be considered misdemeanors in the states however. 2 were assault charges and a bunch of mischief charges that mostly got dropped I think all but 2 where I got 20 hours community service.

One of the assault charges, the local police seemed to have forgotten that I existed. I went through court and everything apparently was on probation but then wen we went back to get information, they didn’t know who I was. The second one I was issued anger management & 18 months probation (This was the last charge also that I inquired I believe when I was 16 years old)

Since I have had a few apprehensions under the mental health act (Which from my understanding is now protected under a new law and cannot be pulled up at all when doing background checks and stuff) but no charges since I was 16 (I’m turning 24 in 21 days).

Do I NEED to get a pardon/entry waiver or should I be good going over for 4 days? I’m traveling lightly via Greyhound and not sure the process that will take place.

What kinds of questions do they ask? Will they be able to pull up my youth record right there? Is a few mischief charges & 2 assaults as a youth under 17 cause to deny me entry? Could my mental health play a factor as to why I wouldn’t be allowed into the states? What happens if I am denied entry? How will I return home? If I am taken for questioning and in the end allowed to go to my destination but my bus is gone, am I able to take another bus?

I read that if the RCMP has destroyed your record & the border asks you if you have a record you are actually allowed to say “No” is this true?
To clarify, the assault charges where 1) Punching a group home staff & 2) I bit my girlfriend on the leg after being under the influence of hospital drugs ontop of her other partners bruise he left her so they blamed me.

The mischief charges were mostly punching/kicking holes in walls and breaking a few chairs/tables.
Lawl@ the not so helpful comment about me luring underage kids. Ya I punched a grouphome staff for killing my best friend when I was 12 years old. And the bite was playful but in the wrong spot. Thanks for the helpful answers.
@Nola Guy. Thank you for that link however it says “Convicted of only one” where I have been charged as a youth for 3 or 4. Any ideas?

Best answer:

Answer by NOLA guy
The prohibition is about crimes involving “moral turpitude”. The website does NOT define “moral turpitude”. In countries like Australia, Canada, NZ, the UK, and Western Europe anything that would be “moral turpitude” would be a major felony.

Misdemeanor incidents committed as a juvenile (under the age of 18) do not count. In any event, none of the things you did as a juvenile were “moral turpitude” or a felony so would not prevent you from entering the USA. You don’t have to say anything about them at passport control and can answer “No” if asked about arrests/convictions. Really.



Misdemeanor incidents committed as a juvenile (under the age of 18) do not count against you when entering the USA, and you don’t have to say anything about them. You can answer “No” to any questions about your history before the age of 18.

Even most crimes committed as a adult are not disqualifying as long as the sentences don’t exceed a total of 5 years in prison and the crimes don’t involve illegal drugs

Check with your health insurance to find out if it covers you in the USA and pays for medical evacuation to home (should that be necessary). If yes then take proof of coverage with you. If no or not sure then get trip medical insurance, which is cheap and sold by airlines & travel agents. The USA has wonderful medical care but it isn’t free or even cheap. Please do not skimp on this as an otherwise-silly accident could turn into a crisis if you don’t have medical insurance. This is a link from the US government, but the info is good for anyone traveling outside their home country:

I hope you have a good trip!

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24 Responses to “Foreign Travelers – Entry Into the United States”

  • toshibajump:

    dats is billshitz. dem shuld not keep him away froms ze usa hez notz a terrorisr!!1!1

  • rubiconxj:

    I remember one time when I was flying down to cali, I was going through the security/bag checks, I was thoroughly frisked, shoes off, ect. When the officer was done frisking and going through my baggage (5 minutes of searching) he gave me the green to go, then I told him “you sure? you never checked my hat.”

  • rubiconxj:

    blocking people from entering the US does not stop the domestic terrorists, such as the “homeland security”

  • DrLemur:

    Ha seriously? Your kiddin me. No element of my life should be a part of any healthy curriculum. 🙂

  • 99percentcomplete:

    I have to do this thing for IT homework and its about you and how you weren’t allowed into America and so on.

  • DrLemur:

    I shot this after 40 hrs of flying, almost a week of no sleep and some jail time thrown in there too 🙂 Considering that.. I should look much much worse lol

  • raymondbuz:

    At a glance you fit the terrorist profile in your eyes mate! Prob. cause your tired!

  • kikhuana:

    Damn shame about your trip, although this was a while back. There are some great people in America, but rather unfortunately, they’re not the ones in charge.

  • tnteacuptempest:

    I hate to hear about anything like this happening to anyone. I disagree with a lot of American ideals, including immigration and our dismissal of vistiors which is why I’m going to Brisbane in January for a year.

    I feel guilty by association.

  • blackdusk386:

    i saw ur story on Australian Story [only time i have ever watched it 😀 ] i can’t say i feel ur pain because i don’t know what that feels like but it must have been crap

    all the best for the future

    customs suck

    blackdusk386/Isabelle 🙂

  • hmnix:

    australia ftw!!!

    american border security….not so much

  • RedJacket92:

    Haha ill be sure to let him no
    If your ever down the coast i might give you a free lesson haha

  • suziestew:

    sorry for your nightmare…I can feel your pain…

  • DrLemur:

    Hey I do occasionally ride a surfboard.. just not particularly well and usually end up dragged across rocks 🙂

  • RedJacket92:

    Hahaha I was watching from the Gold coast decided to look you up….your funny i hope all goes well for you and that american girl. Haha no offence but my dad thought you looked dodgy 😉 but the old man has a grudge against anyone who doesnt ride a surfboard

  • DrLemur:

    If your eyes aren’t glossy after 4 days no sleep and almost 50 hours in the air I’ll give you a medal.

  • kelsealuv:

    you do know that your eyes are completly glossy and pinned hmm?????? drugs may-be

  • kelsealuv:


  • getaname20:

    haha, for once Australian Story had a story worth watching on it.
    Lol, American security at it’s finest!
    I know that terrorism is a huge problem but they go waaay to far with it.
    aparently you arn’t even allowed nail clippers on board.

    …why not?
    Honestly they go to far with it these days, it’s ridiculous.

  • tamalita2007:

    I was so sorry to hear about this when your mom told us. I don’t even know what to say because nothing I can say makes it any better.

  • Trumpet Warrior:

    you need a Canadian passport

  • .:

    you punched a guy, you bit your girlfriend and your aka is “Maggie”? 0_o

    What else do you do, “Maggie”? Lure under age kids and pretend you’re a girl?

  • Cyndi:

    You will need to obtain a passport to enter the US now. Not sure if the Canadian government uses that to determine if you can get one I’d call and find out.

  • James D:

    NOLA guy added info to his answer.

    You will be OK.

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