France joined the United States of America’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in October 1989 only three years after the legislation for the program was set in motion in 1986. France, as all the other countries that first joined the VWP, has for many years enjoyed strong ties with the U.S. The program as helped facilitating tourism and short-term business visits to the United States allowing the U.S. Department of State to focus on consular resources and high-risk issues when it comes to immigration.
The VWP was further developed and the Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA) was introduced in 2009. The system made it possible for French citizens to apply for ESTA online to get access into the U.S. for up to 90 days for business, tourism (including medical purposes), and non-credit study programs. Streamlining the immigration processes by pushing the pre-screening of travelers online through the online application form has helped both the French and the Americans. Only if you need a B-2 tourist visa is a trip to the U.S. Embassy necessary.
The ESTA is not the same as a visa and it is an important distinction. An ESTA differs as it is a travel document/authorization that grants access for up to 90 days, and only for the purposes mentioned earlier. An approved application is valid for 2 years, and when it expires, a new application has to be made. A valid ESTA can be used multiple times.
U.S. Immigration statistics about French visitors (2017):
- The total amount of visitors from France: 2 099 450
- Approved ESTA applications: 1 891 564
- Students and exchange visitors: 52 642
- Temporary workers and family-related applications: 103 442
- Diplomats and other official representatives: 15 599
- Other types of visitor categories: 3 800
*These numbers include: France, French Guiana, French Polynesia, French Southern and Antarctic Lands, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mayotte, New Caledonia, Reunion, Saint Barthelemy, Saint Pierre and Miquelon, and Wallis and Futuna.
Traveling from France to the United States of America
Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport and Paris-Orly Airport are the busiest airports in France together with Nice airport, Lyon–Saint Exupéry Airport, and Marseille Airport. From Paris, Air France offer several direct flights to U.S. destinations with nonstop flights, which includes San Francisco, Los Angeles, Washington, Boston, Houston, Miami, Chicago, Atlanta, Detroit, Seattle, Philadelphia, and New York. To check for flights and prices, go to this website airfrance.us.
How to get to Paris-Charles de Gaulle Airport?
Firstly, keep in mind that this airport has many names and is probably better known by many as “Roissy” or just CDG Airport.
Getting there by Train (RER):
- One-way ticket costs €10 one-way
- Open from 5am-11:50pm
- Travel time is around 30 minutes
- Train runs every 10 minutes
Taking the RER-B train is one of the cheapest and quickest way to get from the city to the airport. Just follow the signs to find it (should be well marked). Be aware that you might have to take a free shuttle bus or train to get to the right terminal as you approach the airport. The RER-B train stops at multiple stations within Paris - Gare du Nord, Châtelet-Les Halles, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, Luxembourg, Port-Royal, Denfert-Rochereau, and Cité Universitaire. All of these stations are connected to the Paris Metro.
Getting there by Bus (Roissybus):
- Runs from the Paris Opéra (11 rue Scribe, 75009 — Metro Stop: Opéra)
- Get tickets from any automated ticket machine at any Roissybus stop
- It costs €11.50
- Route runs from 5:15am-12:30am
- Time to airport: 45 minutes to 1.5 hours during rush hour
- Bus runs every 15-20 minutes
Learn more about public transportation to the airport here: parisaeroport.fr/public-transport
Getting there by Taxi, Shuttle Van or Uber:
Getting to the airport with any of these services will cost between €15-€50 depending on the service. €50 to €70 for a Taxi, €15-€27 for a Shuttle Van (will take longer as more passengers are being picked up), and €50 for a normal UberX, or €32 for an UberPool. Make sure to check the traffic conditions and buffer up enough time in case of heavy traffic.
You can get live traffic updates here.
When should you apply for ESTA?
In December 2018, it became compulsory for everyone to apply for an ESTA at least 72 hours before boarding a U.S.-bound aircraft. To be on the safe side, travelers are advised 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 weeks or months to complete. If you have intentions to visit the United States in the near future, then apply today. Learn more about the ESTA application here.
French citizens with an approved ESTA can check its status or make updates. Visit this page for more information: verify/update ESTA.
French citizens can apply for ESTA online
The ESTA is valid for 2 years for visitors from France
French citizens can stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days with an approved ESTA
France’s overstay rate is only: 0.80%