Most travelers from Australia don’t need a visa to enter the United States. Under the Visa Waiver Program, citizens of countries such as the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand can travel to the U.S. without a visa. The basic restrictions are these: time in the U.S. or its neighbors can’t exceed 90 days, and travelers must be visiting for business or tourism. Register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to take advantage of this.
Pay Attention to Exceptions
Important exceptions apply. You can’t use the Visa Waiver Program if you’re traveling on government business or as a reporter. The time in the U.S. (90 days or fewer) includes time spent in Canada, Mexico and the outlying islands. Your passport has to be current and readable by a machine. You cannot have been found unsuitable for a U.S. visa at an earlier time. If traveling by air or see, you have to arrive in the U.S. on a major commercial carrier with a return-trip ticket. If by land, you have to give reasonable proof that you intend to stay for fewer than 90 days and that you have enough money to support yourself in the U.S. You can’t use the waiver program if you have a criminal record in your home country. (See references, Visa Waiver Program.)
If you’re not covered under the Visa Waiver Program, you’ll need a non-immigrant visa. Schedule your visa interview appointment with the online service VisaPoint. (See references, VisaPoint.) In general, your visa cannot begin until 2 days after your interview, which is about the time it takes to process a standard application. In some cases, you’ll have to go through additional administrative steps. Your interviewer will notify you of this. It’s largely unpredictable who will be subject to additional requirements, so plan ahead and submit your visa application early—especially if you’re traveling in the busy summer months. Most likely, you won’t have any trouble, but if you do, you’ll want a lot of time to sort it out. Usually, the process takes fewer than 30 days except in the summer and over the Christmas holiday.
Australians can immigrate to the U.S. in four ways: through a family member, through the lottery program, sponsored by an employer, or because of your investments in U.S. assets. Each of these has its own set of detailed regulations. Immigrating through a family member is the most common. The family member must be immediate--for example, a parent, sibling, spouse or child. Uncles, grandparents and in-laws don’t count. The U.S. gives first preference to the children of U.S. citizens. (For details about employment immigration and the diversity lottery program, see resources, Migrating to the U.S.)