If international travel is in your plans or those of your employees, a bit of advance planning is always a good idea. The U.S. Department of State (DOS) provides travelers with important reminders and tips, with a focus more on U.S. citizens travelling abroad, on its website. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the agency whose officers conduct inspections of persons entering the country, recently issued a new summary of entry requirements and has additional information regarding documentary requirements and what items you can import to the United States at its travel page.
As a quick summary for various groups:
- All – it is a good idea to leave copies of vital documents (e.g., passports, visa stamps, birth certificates, etc.) with a friend or relative in the event documents are lost or stolen while travelling.
- U.S. Citizens – have your passport available for travel. In some cases of North American travel, a U.S. citizen card may be sufficient.
- U.S. Permanent Residents (green card holders) – your green card is typically sufficient for reentry to the United States, although your passport commonly will be required for entry to your destination country.
- Foreign nationals resident/working in the United States (e.g., H-1B or L-1 workers) – up-to-date passports with valid visas in the appropriate classification typically are required for re-entry in to the United States. Proof of employment with your sponsoring employer (e.g., paystubs, an employment confirmation letter and/or a copy of your original petition) is recommended as well. If you will need to apply for a new visa during your international travel, please plan well in advance and be prepared for possible delays. Check with the applicable U.S. Consulate or Embassy to schedule your visa appointment before departing the United States.
- Foreign nationals visiting the United States for business or pleasure – if a visa is required, be sure to have your passport and visa secured. If you have citizenship in a Visa Waiver Country and therefore do not need a visa for travel of less than 90 days to the United States, make sure your passport is valid and that your Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) registration has been completed. Canadian visitors are exempted from ESTA registration and should reference the Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) website for a list of appropriate entry documents.
A little advance planning can facilitate a successful international trip and reentry in to the United States.