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I'm a European citizen (from Germany) and I have a flight from Germany to Chile via Puerto Rico soon. I have a three hour stay at the airport and need to change the airplane (and flight operating company as well).

Do I need to apply for an ESTA beforehand to be allowed to enter US territory?

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possible duplicate of Puerto Rico visa (or visa waiver) requirements for EU citizens – Doc Nov 8 '13 at 19:58
Not exactly a duplicate imho. In most places in the world you don't need anything for just changing planes (never leaving airport transit area). PR may be different as it's US territory. Good question. – Jonik Nov 9 '13 at 1:57
up vote 5 down vote accepted

Yes, you do need an ESTA. Puerto Rico has the same visa requirements as the mainland US (= ESTA needed for EU citizens), and like all other US airports, San Juan's airport does not recognize the concept of visa-free transit.

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I just confirmed with the flight company, they state: "[...] if you do not register for the ESTA and (TSA) Secure Flight programs, you will be refused entry to the USA (and also transit through the USA)." – Stockfisch Nov 9 '13 at 10:07

Yes. When it comes to ESTA all US territories are treated like mainland US. Therefore you always need to apply for ESTA.

I'm from Germany myself and I always needed an ESTA number to transit through the US.

Here are two links that should help (auf Deutsch ;)

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