Finland joined the United States of America’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in 1991 together with many other European countries and only two years after Sweden. Since then, Finland has had a healthy relationship with the Americans in both tourism and trade.
When the U.S. introduced the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (better known as ESTA) for all VWP-countries in 2009, all Finnish citizens could apply online for a travel authorization to visit the U.S. The ESTA travel authorization gave all Finns access to the U.S. for up to 90 days for the purpose of business, tourism (including medical purposes), and non-credit study programs. Some Finns, those that have other reasons for visiting the U.S., might still have to apply for a B-2 tourist visa. Also, it is important to understand that an ESTA is not the same as a visa. The ESTA differ as it is only a travel document/authorization used for the purposes stated above.
The ESTA itself is valid for two years and can be used multiple times. When it expires, a brand-new application has to be made.
U.S. Immigration statistics about Finnish visitors (2017):
- The total amount of visitors from Finland: 175 076
- Approved ESTA applications: 157 079
- Students and exchange visitors: 3 903
- Temporary workers and family-related applications: 7 764
- Diplomats and other official representatives: 2 770
- Other types of visitor categories: 302
Information about traveling to the U.S. from Finland
From Helsinki Airport (HEL), you can reach New York in about 8-9 hours with nonstop flights. In fact, thanks to Finnair’s co-operation project with its OneWorld alliance partners American Airlines, British Airways, and Iberia, they are together offering more than 100 daily flights between Europe and North America.
Finnair is continuing to plan new direct routes in 2019 and will soon be able to fly directly to Los Angeles with their new Airbus A350 aircraft. Finnair has also established direct routes to San Francisco, Chicago (depends on the season), and Miami. You can read more about this here.
If you don’t live in Helsinki, you will have to get there first to gain access to these direct flights. Luckily, there are 21 airports in Finland, so check first if you can find a flight first before considering other forms of transportation if you live in Lapland.
From Helsinki City Center, you can reach Helsinki Airport in about 30 minutes with train. There are two main services; train I and train P. You can get the full overview of transport links here. You can also take the bus. Line 615 and the Finnair City Bus that operate between Helsinki City Center and the airport. To explore other bus options, check here.
When should I apply for ESTA?
In December 2018, it became mandatory for everyone to apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before boarding a U.S.-bound airplane. To be on the safe side, travelers are recommended to apply weeks or months in advance to make sure that their travel authorization (ESTA) is approved. Those that get denied have to apply for a B-2 visa at the nearest U.S. Embassy, which can take a very long time to complete. If you have plans to visit the United States in the near future, then apply today. Read more about the ESTA application here.
Finns with an approved ESTA can check its status or make updates. Visit this page for more information: verify/update ESTA.
Finnish citizens can apply for ESTA online
The ESTA is valid for 2 years for visitors from Finland
Finns can stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days with an approved ESTA
Finland’s overstay rate is only: 0.40%