Travelling to or through the US

The US is a beautiful and friendly country, but they do have tight controls on their borders.

Take the time to line up your paperwork in advance, so you can keep your travel as smooth as possible. Good news: you can do most of it online.

Travelling to the US takes a little more preparation 

The US Department of Homeland Security, has strict regulations for everyone flying into or through the USA. These regulations are enforced by the US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) and Transport Security Administration (TSA).

There are three main things you'll need:

  • A machine-readable e-Passport, valid for at least six months after your planned departure from the US
  • An Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) or a visa
  • Additional information that is required to complete your check-in at the airport

Preparing for your trip 

1. Check if your passport is valid

Your passport will need to be:

  • Valid for at least six months after you plan to leave the US or
  • Valid for the period of your intended stay
  • An e-Passport

An e-Passport carries information on an embedded electronic chip, so they're more trusted by customs officials.

The US has two very strict criteria for your e-Passport:

  • It must have a machine-readable zone on the photo page
  • It must be printed with your digital photograph, rather than having an old-style photograph attached separately

2. Find out if you can visit the US without a visa

The US has a Visa Waiver Program. It enables travel to or through the US for up to 90 days without a visa, as long as the intention of the visit is not to work or study during that time.

If you are eligible you can apply online for an Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA). It's valid for two years, or until your passport expires, and for any number of trips in that time.

If you are eligible, you can arrange an ESTA for yourself and where applicable, other travellers in your group, up to 72 hours before you leave for the US. Most ESTAs are granted within hours of sending your application, however when it isn't, make sure you allow sufficient time to apply for a visa.

Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) - is the online system used by nationals of China holding a 10-year B1/B2 or B1 or B2 visitor visa for the US, to update their biographic information. To enrol, please visit EVUS.

3. Arrange your visa if you aren't eligible for the Visa Waiver Program

If you can't travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program, you'll need to apply for a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate.

If you don't have an ESTA or a visa, you won't be able to travel to the US.

4. Information required to complete your check-in

If you haven't already provided this information, please do so via Manage Booking or with your travel agent. When travelling to, or through the US, the following is required:

  • Full passport details
  • Your destination address in the USA (non-US and Canadian nationals only)
  • Your country of residence

Additional information (where applicable) to provide at the airport:

  • US Legal Permanent Resident Card (Green Card)
  • Traveller Redress Number - this number is issued to travellers (upon application) from the Department of Homeland Security to assist with their airport experience, to/through/from the US

On the day of travel

Check-in at least three hours before you travel

Travelling to the US means you will encounter additional security checks at the airport, and we strongly recommend you allow enough time to go through the process by arriving at the airport at least three hours before your flight's departure.

Please note, we cannot check in anyone who arrives at the airport less than two hours before their flight is scheduled to depart.

Please bring:

  • Your passport and any other documents for entry to the US
  • Your ticket details
  • A printed or digital copy of your flight itinerary

If you're transferring from another flight to Air New Zealand for the US-bound leg of your trip, we'll complete these security processes before you board. Please arrive at the gate early, and have your passport, boarding pass and itinerary ready for inspection.

On arrival

If this is your first time travelling to, or through the US, here's some useful information to help you understand the arrival process, and make your trip as smooth as possible.

US Customs and Border Protection

US Customs and Border Protection - arrival information

Information if transiting through Los Angeles on NZ2 or NZ1


US or Canadian citizens arriving at Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago (Ohare), or Houston airports may now go through the passport control more quickly using Mobile Passport Control.