Is a passport essential for travel to the USA?

Among the most common questions asked by future travellers to the USA, the question of whether a passport is necessary is one of the most important. So do you need a passport to travel to the USA?

Can you travel to the US without a passport?

The answer to this question is of course no. While a simple identity document can allow you to travel to several countries, it only works for destinations within the European Union. Beyond the borders of Europe, you must have a passport and present it when boarding and when crossing the borders.

The United States is a very popular destination, but it is also very vigilant and drastic in terms of entry requirements. You must therefore ensure that you have a valid passport for the duration of your stay. If you do not yet have a passport or if your passport is about to expire, do not waste any more time and go as soon as possible to your local town hall or prefecture in order to take the necessary steps to apply for one. The time it takes to obtain a biometric passport can vary from a few weeks to a few months depending on the period, so it is essential to plan ahead.

It should also be noted that provisional passports will not be accepted when entering the USA.

 

What is the biometric passport?

The biometric passport is a recent form of passport that is equipped with an electronic component containing the owner's data, including civil status, a passport photo and fingerprints. It is difficult to forge and provides effective protection against identity theft.

A biometric passport is now essential for travel to certain countries such as the United States, but since 2009 all passports issued in France are in this form, so you can be sure that your passport, if it is still valid, is a biometric passport. However, it is possible that your passport is an electronic passport, in which case you will need to apply for a specific visa or have your passport redone in order to benefit from ESTA.

 

Where and how to apply for or renew your passport?

You can apply for your passport anywhere, regardless of where you live. All you have to do is go to the town hall of your choice. However, not all town halls offer this type of service and it is best to find out before you go.

To prepare your application for a new or renewed passport, you will need to bring certain supporting documents:

  • An identity document: You will need to provide your identity card and a photocopy of it, even if it is less than 5 years old. If you do not have an identity card or if it has been out of date for longer, you will need to provide an original birth certificate that is less than three months old, as well as proof of French nationality if the certificate was issued abroad.
  • A passport photo: This photo must have been taken less than 6 months ago in a booth offering an approved system or by a professional. It must be 35mm wide by 45mm high and the background must be light and plain except for the white background. The face should be unobstructed and free of any accessories with a neutral expression.
  • A Cerfa form: You will be asked to fill in an official form that you can download online in PDF format.
  • Proof of address: You will also need to provide proof of address that is less than one year old and proves your place of residence. This can be a water or electricity bill, your last tax assessment or a rent receipt with your full name. If you are being accommodated by a third party, you must provide proof of address, a copy of their identity document and a signed accommodation certificate less than three months old.
  • Old passport: Finally, if you are renewing your passport, you must also enclose your old passport.

 

Other official documents needed for your trip to the USA:

Although a passport is the essential piece of identification for travelling to the USA, it is not enough to authorise you to enter the country. Depending on how long you plan to stay in the USA, and even if you are just passing through, you will need to obtain at least an ESTA or, if necessary, a visa in due form.

 ESTA is an electronic system that allows you to obtain approval from the US immigration authorities for travel of less than 90 days within 72 hours. The ESTA application must be made online on the official website or a website such as that of our partner by filling in a simple form. Please note! When you fill in your questionnaire, you will be asked for your passport number. Please make sure you have it with you so as not to waste time. Once the ESTA form has been validated and the application fee has been paid, all you have to do is wait a few hours to receive a positive or negative response from the American authorities by email.

If you are travelling for more than 90 days, you should apply directly for a visa at the US embassy.

 

What types of passports are allowed to travel to the USA with ESTA?

As we have seen above, if you are applying for an ESTA to travel to the United States, you must have a valid passport that covers your stay. However, not all passport types are accepted for this process.

Only passports that can be read electronically by a machine can be used to travel to the USA with ESTA.

If your current passport is not digitally scannable but you still wish to use the ESTA system to prepare for your trip, we recommend that you apply for a new passport at the town hall of your place of residence. You will then obtain a new electronic or biometric passport that will allow you to benefit from this visa exemption. Of course, you will have to pay for this application if your old passport has not expired and you will have to pay the necessary tax stamps as for a first passport application. You will also need to provide all the required documents such as an identity document, proof of address less than 3 months old and several passport photos.

Frequently asked questions

Is it possible to travel to the USA without a passport or with an identity card?

It is of course not possible to travel to the USA without a passport or with a simple identity card. As the United States is not a member of the European Union, you will need a passport for this trip. In addition to this document, don't forget to apply for an ESTA authorisation or a visa, as one of these authorisations is required in order to be able to travel to this destination. This application can be done online in a few minutes for an ESTA.

Does the passport have to be valid when I return from the USA?

The passport with which you will be travelling to the USA must of course be valid for the duration of your stay in the USA. In addition, its validity must cover a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into the country. If your passport is due to expire soon, remember to renew it in good time and apply for an ESTA only after this renewal and not before.

Can I apply for a passport after applying for an ESTA?

No! Remember that the passport number you give when you apply for ESTA must be the same as the passport you will present during your trip. The ESTA authorisation is electronically linked to this passport, so presenting another passport will not allow your authorisation to be verified at the time of your trip. It is therefore essential that you apply for this passport before you apply for ESTA.