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Visa for Key West, Florida USA

Updated: Aug 25, 2023  | Tags: USA Visa, ESTA

Information on visiting Key West and applying for an ESTA or a visa.

Key West, the southernmost point in the United States, is a sun-soaked paradise known for its tropical climate, rich history, and vibrant culture. Located closer to Cuba than to Miami, this island city is a tourist hotspot that promises a unique blend of natural beauty, historical significance, and a laid-back lifestyle. But before you get swept away by the charm of the “Conch Republic,” you'll need to ensure that you have the necessary travel authorization to enter the U.S. In this article, we'll cover how to apply for an ESTA or a visa for your trip to Key West, along with a rundown of some of the must-visit tourist attractions on the island.

ESTA or Visa: What Do You Need?

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization)

As its name suggests, the Visa Waiver Program authorizes nationals of certain countries to enter the States without a visa, if they fulfil certain criteria. 41 countries are included in the VWP and they include Poland, the UK, Australia, Chile and Brunei. To participate in this program, you will need to fill out the online ESTA form including the eligibility questions. Here, you will be asked various questions about your criminal record, occupation, and reasons for being in the US, amongst other information. Within around 72 hours, you should have a response from the US authorities, either authorising you to enter the US under the VWP, or rejecting you. If you are rejected, you may still be able to travel to Key West with a U.S. visa, and you will thus need to apply for a B-2 Tourist Visa or B-1 Business Visa.

How to apply for an ESTA

  1. Fill Out the Online Application: Fill out the online application form and complete the form questions. This usually takes about 20 minutes.
  2. Pay the Fee: Payment of the ESTA government fee is required before submitting the ESTA application. It can be paid via credit card, debit card or PayPal.
  3. Wait for Approval: Approval is often instantaneous but can take up to 72 hours. It is advisable to apply at least a few weeks before your planned trip.
  4. Print Confirmation: Once approved, you will receive confirmation via email. You can print the confirmation for your records, although it's electronically linked to your passport.

U.S. Visas

If you are not from a VWP country, or have been denied an ESTA, you should consider applying for a B-2 Tourist Visa or B-1 Business Visa to visit Key West.

How to apply for a U.S. Visa

  1. DS-160 Form: Complete the DS-160 form online and print the confirmation page.
  2. Schedule an Interview: Make an appointment for a visa interview at the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in your country.
  3. Pay the Fee: The application fee for a non-immigrant visa (like the B-1 or B-2 visa) is $185. You need to pay this fee prior to scheduling your embassy appointment.
  4. Attend the Interview: Provide all required documents, including financial proof, travel itinerary, and purpose of visit.
  5. Wait for Approval: If approved, you will receive your passport and visa via courier or can opt to collect your documents from your nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

The key difference between ESTA and visa

ESTA lets you travel visa free for purposes other than work or study. ESTA only applies to nationals of certain countries who have not traveled to, or been present in Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011. On the other hand, can apply to nationals of any country and can be used for work or study as well as tourism. So, once you have your ESTA or visa sorted for Key West, you can focus on travel plans.

Must-Visit Tourist Attractions in Key West

Duval Street

Duval Street is the heart of Key West’s commercial and entertainment scene. Famed for its many bars, restaurants, shops, and art galleries, this bustling thoroughfare is the go-to place for nightlife and shopping.

Mallory Square Sunset Celebration

Witness one of the most celebrated sunsets in the world at Mallory Square, where every evening sees a gathering of tourists, vendors, and performers, creating a festival-like atmosphere.

Ernest Hemingway Home & Museum

This historic site was the residence of famed author Ernest Hemingway. You can tour the house, see the room where he wrote some of his most famous works, and even meet the descendants of his polydactyl (six-toed) cat.

Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory

Home to over 50 species of butterflies and numerous exotic birds, this conservatory offers a magical experience for nature lovers.

Dry Tortugas National Park

Accessible only by boat or seaplane, this remote national park offers some of the best snorkeling experiences in the U.S., along with a glimpse into American history via the 19th-century Fort Jefferson.

The Southernmost Point Buoy

Don’t miss out on taking a photo next to this iconic landmark, marking the southernmost point in the continental United States.


From snorkeling and diving at the only living coral barrier reef in the continental U.S. to fishing, kayaking, and parasailing, Key West offers a smorgasbord of water-based activities.


Key West is a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Whether you're a U.S. resident or an international visitor, make sure to get your ESTA or visa sorted well in advance of your trip to enjoy all that this tropical paradise has to offer. Once your travel authorization is secure, all that's left is to explore the myriad attractions that make Key West one of the most sought-after travel destinations in the world.