Updated: Aug 24, 2023
Seattle, the largest city in the Pacific Northwest region of the United States, is a bustling urban landscape that offers an exciting blend of modern innovation and rich history. Whether you’re looking to explore the iconic Space Needle, relish in the city's famous coffee culture, or discover its natural beauty, Seattle has something for everyone. But before you embark on your Seattle adventure, it’s crucial to figure out the entry requirements. Depending on your country of residence, you may need to apply for either an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) or a U.S. visa.
Many people planning a trip to Seattle for the first time are confused about what documentation they'll need apart from their passport. They're unsure whether they need a visa or not, and they have also probably heard about something called ESTA but don't know the difference between ESTA and visa requirements, or even if there is a difference. ESTA, despite being a travel authorization, is not a Visa. This article aims to guide you through the process for both options, while also highlighting some must-see tourist attractions in Seattle.
ESTA is available to residents of 41 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These countries are as follows: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom. This program allows tourists and business travelers to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without requiring a visa.
Travelers from countries not eligible for the VWP must apply for a visa to visit the United States.
An important difference between ESTA and visa applications is that while visas are applied for in person at a U.S. embassy or consulate, ESTAs are obtained online via the Department of Homeland Security's website. Just supply the requested information, complete payment and wait for the system to check that you're eligible to travel without a visa. You'll receive notification sometime after. An ESTA is valid for two years, so for any return trips to the United States within that period, you won't need to re-apply for a new ESTA. However, if the purpose of your return visit doesn't satisfy the conditions of the Visa Waiver Program, you'll need to apply for a visa for visiting Seattle.
Once your travel documents are in order, you can start planning your Seattle itinerary. Here are some must-see tourist attractions:
One of the most iconic landmarks in the U.S., the Space Needle offers panoramic views of the city and its surrounding areas. Don’t forget to experience the rotating glass floor!
Known for its vibrant atmosphere, Pike Place Market is a food lover's paradise. From fresh produce to a variety of international cuisines, there's plenty to explore.
This museum is a haven for fans of music, science fiction, and pop culture. Exhibitions range from the history of rock 'n' roll to contemporary pop culture phenomena.
This institution houses a diverse collection of art that spans multiple eras and geographical regions. It's a must-visit for art aficionados.
Just a couple of hours from Seattle, Mount Rainier National Park offers stunning natural landscapes. It's perfect for hiking, camping, and winter sports.
The ferry offers magnificent views of Seattle's skyline. Once on Bainbridge Island, you can enjoy a quieter atmosphere with boutique shops and scenic walks.
Visiting Seattle requires some advance planning, especially when it comes to entry requirements. Residents of Visa Waiver Program countries can apply for an ESTA, which is a relatively simple process, while those from other countries will need to go through the more time-consuming U.S. visa process. Regardless of your entry requirements, Seattle’s diverse range of attractions, from its bustling markets to its natural beauty, make it a must-visit destination on any U.S. trip.
Before you travel, always check the most up-to-date information from official sources as policies and requirements may change.