Most French citizens dread applying for a US visa for various reasons. For instance, US visas are often associated with extended wait times and demanding requirements like proof of sufficient funds. But you don’t have to worry about these issues.
Suppose you plan to visit the States and are wondering, do French citizens need a visa for USA? In that case, as a French passport holder, you no longer need a VISA to enter the States. Since France is eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, you can apply for an ESTA and use it to visit the US.
ESTA vs. VISA: An Overview
ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This program is controlled and monitored by Homeland Security. Any French citizen who wants to use the Visa Waiver Program to enter the United States must obtain an ESTA before leaving the country. With an ESTA, you can visit the US for up to 90 days without a VISA.
On the other hand, a VISA is a document that allows you to enter the US and stay for a predetermined amount of time. There are two broad categories of US visas: immigrant and non-immigrant visas. An immigrant visa allows you to reside and work permanently in the US. Conversely, you can only visit the US temporarily with a non-immigrant visa.
When to Apply for an ESTA
You should consider applying for an ESTA when:
1. You need to visit the US for business or tourism
According to statistics, most international business trips last around 6 days. But a trip can span several weeks or months depending on how long you must negotiate with partners, complete tasks, or travel to different locations.
Since most business trips don’t involve extended stays, using an ESTA to travel for business is highly advisable. The same applies to vacations and personal trips to places like Colorado, which don’t require spending more than 90 days in the States.
2. You need to travel on short notice.
Sometimes, circumstances force people to make travel arrangements and leave the country in a hurry. For instance, an urgent business meeting, time-sensitive negotiations, or an unexpected profitable opportunity may mean short-notice travel.
If you ever have to travel on short notice, apply for an ESTA with quicker processing time. You can apply and receive authorization within less than three days. On the other hand, visa processing can take months.
When to Apply for a VISA
You should go with a VISA instead of an ESTA:
- If you intend to immigrate to the US: Suppose you’d like to immigrate to the US for any reason, including work or reuniting with family. In that case, a VISA is necessary. A valid immigrant visa remains valid for a decade.
- When longer visits are necessary: If you’re only visiting the US temporarily, but your visit is likely to last over three months, you should get a VISA.
The Bottom Line
French citizens can travel to the US without a VISA, provided they have a valid ESTA. With that in mind, choosing between a visa and an ESTA depends on how long you plan to stay in the States. If your visit won’t last more than 90 days, get an ESTA. It will get processed faster and will be friendlier to your pockets. But you’ll need a visa to stay in the country for over 90 days.