Swiss citizens have since October 1989 been able to travel to the United States without a visa after getting accepted into the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The program helped to simplify the immigration process making tourism and short-term business more accessible for all Swiss passport holders. The VWP has since been modernized. In 2009, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) introduced the Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA). The ESTA made it possible for Swiss citizens to apply for a travel authorization to visit the U.S. for 90 days for the purpose of business, tourism (including medical purposes) and for attending non-credit study programs.
A tourist visa is not the same as an ESTA and will be required of a trip to the U.S. for other purposes than those mentioned earlier or if the trip is longer than 90 consecutive days. The ESTA is also different from a tourist visa in that it can only be applied for online which means a visit to a U.S. Embassy will not be necessary. The ESTA can be used multiple times and is valid for 2 years.
- The total amount of visitors from Switzerland: 459 938
- Approved ESTA applications: 416 944
- Students and exchange visitors: 10 673
- Temporary workers and family-related applications: 11 548
- Diplomats and other official representatives: 3 398
- Other types of visitor categories: 886
Switzerland is a landlocked country in Central Europe and offers travelers a huge range of flight options to many cities in the U.S including New York, San Diego and San Francisco on the west coast. Whether it is direct flights or in-direct, there are airlines and airports to suits all tastes and budgets.
Zurich Airport is the country’s largest international airport and is the home of Swiss International Air Lines. Zurich Airport sits just 13km from the city center and is easily accessed via bus, train or car. By bus, travelers can take the 16-bus or the Postbus route, which are regular. The Glattalbahn no.10 tram service also runs regular services daily - more details here.
Geneva Airport, formerly known as Cointrin Airport, also offers some international flight options. Accessing the airport is easy - take the train from most major cities to Geneva Airport including Fribourg, Lausanne, Montreux, Sion, and Zurich.
Urban buses also operate services to the airport 365 days a year. The company TPG urban buses have regular routes throughout the day to Geneva - more details here. Regional buses also operate to many Switzerland cities, so travelers have many options for reliable transport - more information here.
From Zurich Airport travelers have a range of options to fly to the U.S. including American Airlines who fly to Philadelphia, Delta Airlines fly to New York and Atlanta, Edelweiss Air fly to Denver, Las Vegas, Orlando, San Diego, while Swiss International Air Lines fly to Boston, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.
From Geneva Airport, you can fly to New York with Swiss International Air Lines or to Newark and Washington with United Airlines. Geneva is also a gateway airport for London, Paris, Amsterdam, and Dublin. So travelers can fly indirect to the U.S. from other major European cities that offer more regular services and more airline options when it comes to flying to the U.S.
It is strongly advised to apply as soon as you know you are traveling to the U.S. In fact, the DHS strongly encourages all travelers to apply for their ESTA at least 72 hours prior to departure. A last-minute application that gets denied might force you to change travel dates or cancel your flight altogether. The reason is that it is more time-consuming to apply for a tourist visa since it requires a visit to the nearest U.S. Embassy. So, make sure to apply as soon as you know you are traveling to the U.S., there is no real reason to wait. You can read more about the ESTA application here.
Swiss citizens can apply for ESTA online
The ESTA is valid for 2 years for visitors from Switzerland
Swiss passport holders can stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days with an approved ESTA
Switzerland’s overstay rate is only: 0.30%