So, you’re living the dream! Studying in another country — the United States of America, no less.
Of course, the moment will soon come when your parents will want to come and visit. When you’re at college overseas, it’s a little different than your folks dropping by to see you at a university in your home country. Depending on where they live, it could be a big trip. After all, the US has some strict rules when it comes to crossing the border.
Don’t worry, though! Mom and Dad should have no trouble clearing immigration and coming to stay as long as they plan ahead and remember to get the right paperwork. Here are some top tips to help you get your parents safely onto US soil.
Check if they need a visa
The first thing to find out is what travel permit your parents will need. Depending on their nationality, they will either need a visa or an ESTA US visa waiver.
Register online with the ESTA for visa-free travelers
The ESTA is an online system that lets eligible visitors get authorization to enter the US by filling in a quick form. This is quick and straightforward. If your parents come from any of the countries listed under the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP), this is what they’ll have to do to come and visit you.
The big advantage of the ESTA is that your folks won’t have to trek all the way to an embassy to get it. The online application system means that they can register their details from the comfort of their own homes — or any other place with an internet connection.
It’s also valid for 2 years once you have registered. This means that your parents will be authorized for multiple trips to come and see you while you’re studying in the US.
Your parents will simply need a passport issued by a VWP country to apply. These countries include Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, Chile, and most European nations.
Get a visa for the US
If your parents are citizens of any other country, they’ll need to apply for a US visa. This is a little more complicated, as it involves booking an appointment at a US embassy and submitting their applications in person.
While you may have needed an F visa as a student, your parents should be fine with the standard B-2 visa for tourism.
No authorization needed!
If your parents are from Canada, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Palau, or certain islands in the Caribbean region, good news! They are completely visa-exempt for entry to the US and don’t even have to register with the ESTA.
They’ll simply need a valid passport issued by one of these locations.
Make sure their passports are up to date
It is crucial to have a valid passport when traveling abroad and the United States is no exception.
Your parents should check that their passports will be valid for the entire length of the stay in the US to cover the return journey. If not, they may be refused entry. Checking passport validity is one of the most important things to do before you travel.
If your parents’ passports have expired or are due to expire before they plan to return from America, they need to get them renewed pronto!
If traveling with an ESTA visa waiver, they must have a passport from one of the eligible countries. The same passport must be used both to register online and to enter the United States.
Get insurance (if needed)
Ok, so this is not an out-and-out requirement for traveling to the US, but it is highly recommended.
The cost of healthcare in the US is notoriously high compared to other countries around the world. If your parents live in a place where healthcare is socialized, such as the UK, they may not realize how important medical insurance is if you need treatment in the United States.
If your parents fall ill or require medical attention during their stay, treatment will not come cheaply. That’s why they should invest in an insurance plan for the trip. Travel insurance may also cover lost luggage, emergency medical evacuation, and other things. It’s good to have peace of mind in case the trip takes a turn for the worst.
Plan the journey carefully
It goes without saying the US is a big country. However, visitors from smaller nations sometimes don’t quite grasp how big it really is until they arrive.
If you’re at college in Boston, it’s important to make sure your parents understand that it is not down the road from New York. The 2 cities look close on a map, but they are separated by a 4 or 5-hour journey.
Visitors might find cheaper flight deals to NYC, but they should be aware that their journey will be far from over if they’re coming to see you in Massachusetts.
There may also be trains, cab rides, and other transport links to factor in. Or it might be easier to just hire a car.
In any case, there are many factors to consider when booking a trip to the US. It helps to be organized and plan it in good time before you get there.
Check what they can bring in
US customs is not a problem as long as you know what you can and can’t bring into the country. America is notoriously strict about contraband and many an unsuspecting traveler has been caught out when bringing in something that seems innocent enough.
Meat products, many plant-based products, many types of fruit and vegetables, and various other items are prohibited. Make sure your parents check the list of banned items if they are thinking of bringing you a gift from home.
In addition, it’s a good idea to tell them to be careful if they are bringing any medication. Some might be banned in the US, while others may require a doctor’s note.
The best idea is to check the US CBP restrictions in good time before their trip so that they can prepare. As long as they stick to the customs rules, there should be no problem arriving in America.