Travelling to the USA - Prepare the documents

Travelling to the USA

See the conditions for travel to and from the USA. See how you can get authorisation and all the necessary documents.

Passengers travelling to the United States who are exempt from visa requirements need to apply for a travel authorisation.

Find out how the exemption programme works, how to proceed and where you can request exemption.

We warn you that without this authorisation (or visa), entry to the country is not permitted.

Visa waiver programme

Passengers traveling to the United States for tourism or business purposes for 90 days or less do not need a visa if they are nationals of one of the following countries:

Andorra Japan
Australia Latvia
Austria Liechtenstein
Belgium Lithuania
Brunei Luxembourg
Chile Malta
Czech Republic Monaco
Denmark New Zealand
Estonia Norway
Finland Portugal
France Republic of Korea
Germany San Marino
Greece Singapore
Holland Slovakia
Hungary Spain
Iceland Sweden
Ireland Switzerland
Italy United Kingdom*

*British citizens only without permanent residence restrictions in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

For more information on Visa Exemption visit the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

If you have a passport from one of these countries which was issued after 2001, you must use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization to apply for an electronic authorisation whenever you travel to the United States of America.
To obtain it just go the website and complete the form. This process must be carried out at least three days prior to travel. However, and to prevent any setbacks, you can request this authorisation before booking the trip.

Since 20 March 2010, airlines that allow passengers to travel to the USA without authorisation are also penalised.
TAP reserves the right, as of that date, to refuse to allow passengers to board until they have completed the necessary formalities.


  1. Go to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization website and enter the basic identification.
  2. When your travel has been authorised, print the document and keep it with your passport. You must show it on request when leaving Portugal or at US border control.
  3. If the system replies “Travel not authorised”, you will have to apply for a non-immigrant visa at the nearest US consulate or the US Embassy in Lisbon.
  4. If the system replies "Pending authorisation" you must return to the website 72 hours later to get the final answer.
  5. These authorisations are valid for 2 years from the date they are obtained and for multiple entries into the USA. If your passport expires, you must request a new authorisation.


More information available at:

U.S. Embassy in Portugal - Visas to the USA.

U.S. Government - Visa Waiver Program

Mandatory information

For legal reasons, all passengers travelling to the USA must provide the following information when booking:

  • Full name
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Number and expiry date of passport or ID document
  • Redress number, if available


The first 3 items are absolutely compulsory:

Airlines are required to send this information to the United States authorities up to seventy-two (72) hours prior to departure of the flight or they may have to cancel bookings, even if the tickets are issued.

TAP thanks all its passengers for their comprehension, so that it may meet these requirements in good time and guarantee the usual quality of our service.

Access to passenger information

See how the data passengers provide is handled. 

Questions on access to passenger data

US law requires all airlines operating flights to, from or within the USA to provide the department in charge of the United States Customs and Border Protection service with electronic access to all passenger data, in order to prevent and combat terrorism as well as other criminal offences considered to be serious.

TAP complies with this legal requirement.

The data provided

The United States Customs and Border Protection has access to information about the booking and itinerary (PNR) of passengers travelling to, from or through the United States, such as:

  • passenger’s name
  • phone number or other contact details
  • details of the travel itinerary (date, origin, destination, seat number, baggage)
  • details of the booking (travel agency, form of payment)
  • records and information provided in the booking process

The US Customs and Border Protection will not use booking data considered “sensitive”, such as:

  • racial or ethnic identification
  • religious or political options
  • health information

Information on the passenger’s food preferences or requested medical services can be used.

Who has access to your booking details and for what purpose?

The department responsible for Customs and Border Protection has access to the booking records (Passenger Name Record - PNR) and uses the data to prevent and combat terrorism and other serious criminal offences.

Under United States law, booking data cannot be disclosed. However, this data is analysed on a case-by-case basis and data may be passed on to other government law enforcement and anti-terrorism authorities.

Booking data may also be used to protect the vital interests of passengers or third parties (e.g. in the event of a public health emergency) or in the prosecution of criminal acts and judicial or other proceedings required by law.


Booking data

Passenger name records are obtained directly from the airline’s booking and check-in system by United States Customs and Border Control and analysed before the passengers’ arrival, in order to determine whether any of these poses a possible threat.

Furthermore, the details are stored by the US Customs and Border Protection for three years and six months. If the Department accesses the data manually during the period, they will be kept in hard copy form over the next eight years, for auditing.

The United States Customs and Border Protection may take other technical and organisational measures to prevent misuse of these data.

Passenger rights

  • Passengers may request a copy of their booking records from the Customs and Border Protection’s database.
  • However, if there are indications that this may interfere with the enforcement of the law or disclose legal investigation techniques and procedures, access to the records is not possible.
  • Refusal by the Customs and Border Protection to disclose booking records is subject to legal action.
  • Passengers may ask for their data held on file by the US Customs and Border Protection to be amended if this agency deems such correction to be appropriate and justified.


Access to booking records

If you wish to access your booking records held by the US Customs and Border Protection you may send your request by letter, addressed to:

  • Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Request
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20229

An alternative address is:

  • Disclosure Law Officer, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Headquarters, Washington, D.C.

For further information about procedures for making this request, please see Section 103.5 of title 19 of the United States Code of Federal Regulations.

Written requests for amendments and complaints about the use of booking records (Passenger Name Records) may be sent to:

  • U.S. CBP's Assistant Commissioner, Office of Field Operations
  • U.S. Customs and Border Protection
  • 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20229

The decisions made by US Customs and Border Protection are reviewed by the head of the Privacy Division of the Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC 20528.The application for review is sent by a passenger to the data protection authority in any EU country, if they do not feel they have received a satisfactory answer from the United States authorities.