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Visa for San Diego, California USA

Updated: Aug 24, 2023 | Published: Jun 01, 2017 | Tags: USA Visa, ESTA

Information on visiting San Diego and applying for an ESTA or visa.


San Diego, a jewel of the American Southwest, boasts breathtaking beaches, a world-renowned zoo, vibrant cultural landmarks, and a myriad of other attractions that make it a must-visit destination. But before you can soak up the sun in this Californian city, there's a critical step to take: ensuring you have the correct travel authorization to enter the United States. This article will guide you through the process of applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or a visa and will also introduce you to some of San Diego's main attractions.

Deciding on an ESTA or Visa

Traveling to San Diego requires you to first sort out your entry permission, which could either be an ESTA or a visa, depending on various factors such as your nationality, the length of your stay, and the purpose of your visit.

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization)

If you're a resident of one of the 40 countries under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), you can opt for the ESTA, a simpler and faster process compared to a visa application.

How to apply for an ESTA

  1. Complete the Application: The online form usually takes about 20 minutes to complete. You will be asked to answer a number of questions on the form. You will need details such as your passport number, personal information, and some basic background questions.
  2. Pay the Fee: Each application is subject to a goverment fee that is the same for all applicants, regardless of age.
  3. Await Approval: Although approval is often instant, it can take up to 72 hours. Apply at least a few days before your planned travel.

An ESTA allows you to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days per visit and is valid for two years (or until your passport expires).

U.S. Visas

If you're not from a VWP country or plan to stay in the U.S. for more than 90 days, you'll likely need a visa.

How to apply for a Visa

  1. Identify Visa Type: Determine which visa category applies to you. Tourists typically opt for the B-2 visa.
  2. Fill out the DS-160: This is an online application form where you'll provide a range of information from personal details to your travel itinerary.
  3. Pay the Application Fee: The visa application fee is $185.
  4. Schedule an Interview: After the fee payment, schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your country.
  5. Attend the Interview: Bring all required documents and be prepared for a thorough interview. Visa approval can sometimes take several weeks, so start early.

San Diego’s Must-See Attractions

With your travel authorization secured, let’s explore the numerous attractions that make San Diego a fantastic travel destination.

Balboa Park

This 1,200-acre park is one of the oldest recreational parks in the United States and offers a blend of cultural buildings, museums, gardens, and walking paths. The San Diego Zoo, located within the park, is one of the largest and most prestigious zoos in the world.

Gaslamp Quarter

The historic Gaslamp Quarter is a bustling area full of shops, galleries, and some of San Diego's finest restaurants and bars. It's the city's nightlife hub, offering various entertainment options from theaters to music venues.

Coronado Island

Located just across the San Diego Bay, Coronado Island offers stunning views of the city skyline, luxurious resorts, and beautiful sandy beaches. The iconic Hotel del Coronado is also located here, providing a glimpse into the grandeur of bygone eras.

La Jolla Cove

La Jolla Cove is one of the most picturesque places in San Diego. With its clear waters and abundant marine life, it's a popular spot for snorkeling, scuba diving, and kayaking.

USS Midway Museum

This maritime museum is located aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway. The museum offers a unique look at life at sea on a floating city full of history.

Old Town San Diego

Known as the "birthplace of California," Old Town is the site of the first Spanish settlement in the state. Visitors can explore historical buildings, enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine, and shop for unique souvenirs.


San Diego offers an eclectic blend of attractions, from its awe-inspiring natural beauty to its rich cultural heritage. But before you pack your bags, ensure you have the necessary travel authorization. If you are from a Visa Waiver Program country, the ESTA is your quickest and easiest option. Otherwise, you'll need to go through the more extensive visa application process. Regardless of which route you take, the key is to start early to ensure you have ample time to address any issues that may arise. With your ESTA or visa in hand, you're all set to enjoy the diverse offerings of this beautiful Californian city.