Travel to the United States

Most travelers to the United States must hold a valid visa and a passport that is valid for six months longer than the intended visit. Please visit the International Visitors Office to determine if you require a travel visa to attend the XI International Rubus and Ribes Symposium. If you require a visa, please recognize that the visa application process may take several months. An interview appointment is required for a visa application at all embassies and consulates. The wait time for this appointment varies, but may be as long as four months, with processing taking an additional month or more. The wait time for visa applications is available on the State Department’s website. As soon as you have decided to attend the meeting, you should begin the process of applying for a visa.

In 2004, the United States instituted the US-VISIT program, requiring most foreign visitors to have their two index fingers scanned and a digital photograph taken to verify their identity at the port of entry. A departure confirmation program, as part of US-VISIT, is currently being tested. This program applies to all visitors, including those from visa waiver countries.

As of October 26, 2005, all countries must issue passports with digital photos or the required chip (e-passport) containing biometric information about the individual. However, anyone issued a machine-readable passport prior to October 26, 2005, will be “grandfathered in” and allowed to visit the United States until the passport expires.

Visa Waiver Program/ESTA

As of January 12, 2009, a valid ESTA approval is required for all Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to travel to the United States. You will not be able to board the plane without this ESTA approval in hand. The Department of Homeland Security, Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W form that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. DHS recommends that travelers submit an ESTA application as soon as they begin making travel plans. ESTA applications may be completed FREE online at the official DHS website, which is: Learn more at ESTA.

Review the current visa waiver program quick reference handout.


Specific passport requirements apply to all VWP travelers. See what do I need to know about VWP MRP and e-Passport requirements?  (

Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) On June 1, 2009, the U.S. government implemented the full requirements of the land and sea phase of WHTI. The rules require most U.S. citizens entering the United States at sea or land ports of entry to have a passport, passport card, or other travel document approved by the Department of Homeland Security.

See for more information.


The ISHS Rubus/Ribes Symposium recommends that international participants view the following websites for important timelines, current requirements, and information concerning visa applications for entry into the U.S.:

Experiencing a Delay in Travel Visa Processing?

The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) has developed a page on its web site to collect detailed information about international scientists experiencing significant visa delays. This could prove useful to scientists still trying to cope with the many changes in protocol brought on by the SEVIS student-tracking system and the enhanced security of the US VISIT program. Visa applications that are delayed by more than 20 days will be reported to the State Department. Please visit the NAS web site at