Go to Canada or Mexico via USA with ESTA
In order to travel to the United States, a citizen of a country that is part of the Visa Waiver Program must submit an ESTA application prior to departure, if the intended stay is short. But what if once you arrive at your destination, you want to take a short trip from the USA to Canada or Mexico?
It is not uncommon for those visiting the United States to wish they could cross the northern border and travel to Canada or the southern border for a short visit to Mexico. The questions that travelers often ask themselves concerns the possibility of using their ESTA travel authorization to cross the border to neighboring states. We answer some questions that are often asked by email:
Is ESTA necessary for transit from the USA? If I enter Canada or Mexico by land, what permits do I need? And for the transit by plane to and from these countries?
Travel from USA to Canada
The border between the United States and Canada is vast, in fact there are thirteen American states located along the line that separates them from Canada.
Cities such as Toronto, Calgary, Montreal are located a short distance from the US border and reaching them is quite simple both by car and by plane. Let's see the various cases.
Travel from USA to Canada by land or sea
For travelers who have obtained ESTA, traveling to Canada from the United States by land, car or train is very simple. The only document to present at the Canadian border is the passport. As it is easy to guess, when you cross the border between two nations, you are subjected to security checks. During the checks, customs officials will check the traveler's documents, and if you are traveling by car, your documents. In addition, questions will be asked about the reasons for the visit to Canada, whether for tourism or business, the duration and in the event of an overnight stay, proof of booking will be asked. In some cases, they may inspect the contents of the luggage or vehicle.
Canadian officials will also provide a paper form to fill out which will be accompanied by a request for payment of an entrance fee (a few dollars). Waiting times can vary from 15 minutes to a few hours, this depends on the place where the border is crossed and, on the traffic, if you arrive by car. It will be possible to view the crossings between the USA and Canada with the relative waiting times on the Canadian government website.
The same applies if the transfer to Canada takes place by sea (for example with a cruise ship) starting from an American port.
Important: At the end of the process, Canadian officials will not issue any Canadian entry visas.
Travel from US to Canada by plane
A separate discussion must be made if you enter Canada from the USA by air. In this case, an entry authorization called ETA Canada (Electronic Travel Authorization) is required for European citizens and therefore Italians. In many ways, the ETA is very similar to ESTA for the USA.
For European citizens, traveling to Canada via the United States by plane will require the request for 2 permits. If you depart from Italy and are headed to Canada with a stopover in the USA, you will have to apply for ESTA for entry to the United States and ETA for entry to Canada. There will also be two customs forms to fill out, the first provided on the route to the USA, the second after the stopover for Canada. Both visas must be requested before departure.
I need an ESTA to enter the USA from Canada
The documents required to enter the United States from Canada depend on how you cross the border between the two countries.
Travel between Canada and the USA by car
If the entry to the USA is a simple return from a short visit to Canada, it is assumed that the traveler is in possession of Valid ESTA and in this case, nothing is needed apart from the passport, as ESTA is electronically linked to the document number, already gives the possibility of entry into the USA.
If you are entering the United States for the first time, by land using the train, car or bus, ESTA USA will not be compulsory, but you will need to fill in the I-94W form, with all the required data (personal details, passport, reason for visit, criminal record, etc. ...). Once the officials have reviewed the documents and form I-94W, and given a positive opinion, they will return a certified paper copy of the entry permit. This copy must be kept with care. As for ESTA, also with the I-94W form it gives the possibility to stay in the USA for three months. Similar speech if entry is by sea.
Travel between Mexico and the USA by land
In the case of a return to the USA, after a short visit to Mexico, no entry permit will be required, apart from returning the FMM (Multiple Migratory Form) produced upon entry. It is assumed that the traveler already holds an ESTA permit or an ordinary US visa. Otherwise, if you are entering for the first time, you will need to fill out the I-94W form that will be provided at the border by the officials.
Travel between Mexico and USA by air
To enter the United States by plane, it will be necessary to have an ESTA permit for european citizens, or another ordinary visa. Transit conclusion Mexico-USA-Canada Crossing the border between Mexico, USA and Canada is quite simple, the important thing is to be prepared and informed.
If you are traveling from Europe and want to go to the United States for a short-term vacation you will need ESTA, and if your vacation continues in Canada you will also need ETA, for Mexico you will need to get the FMM, in case the travel takes place by plane. If the transits between the various countries are by land, the required permits will be represented by the I-94W modules for USA and FMM for Mexico.
For more information on how to apply for authorization to enter the United States, please consult our ESTA guide It is necessary to make a clarification on the length of stay in the USA with the ESTA Visa. The authorization gives the possibility to stay in America for a period of 90 days, but when you cross the border into Canada or Mexico, leaving the USA temporarily, the days spent in neighboring countries will be added to the days provided by ESTA and therefore they contribute to reaching the established 90 days.