We'll be soon flying to the US using our ESTA for the first time. We're staying at our relative's place but we will be the ones supporting ourselves financially.

Are there any documents (apart from the passport of course) that we might need to bring with us to show to the Immigration Officer of the US? I would assume they want to know that we do have the means to support ourselves? Is it a good idea to have cash in your wallet? If most of the money is on a credit card, do we need to have bank statements to show that?

Thanks, Sorry for the dumb questions. 😂

P.S. Travelling as a family, everyone is employed full-time in their respective countries of residence (same nationality however).

3 Answers 3


No, your passport is sufficient.

All official sources claim that you don't need a printout of your ESTA, and I have never heard of it being requested as paper. Many people print it anyway, for peace of mind, but don't worry.
Depending on your airline (and your departure country), you might get a paper boarding pass at check-in, but you don't need it either on arrival - it would only be for entering the plane.

They might - depending on their mood, line length, and their impression of you, ask you some questions; like how long you plan to stay, where, if you have money, etc. As long as you have valid answers, they don't want to see anything. Claiming 'I'll use my credit card' is sufficient. Sometimes they ask to see your return ticket; but showing an email with the booking comfirmationon your cell phone is sufficient.

Note that as a family, you should go together to the counter. Nothing bad happens if you don't, just it takes three times as long.

  • 1
    On the other hand, I have seen airline employees ask for an ESTA printout. (Though they finally let me through without one.)
    – npl
    Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 21:45


Came to the US today. 🇺🇸 Didn't need a printed ESTA and surprisingly no one even mentioned ESTA throughout the whole journey from the point of arriving at the airport to the point of walking on the streets of New York (flew with Virgin Atlantic).

At the immigration, we were asked the purpose of visit/what we are seeing here to which I also mentioned we had a relative here who we're visiting. And then we were asked when we are planning to leave and whether all of us (me and my parents) were going to leave together/same day.

And then they took the fingerprints, a photo and we got a 3 month stamp.

We literally only needed our passports (no other print outs or documents) and to answer 2-3 questions. That's just my story and it might be due to the mood of the immigration, the stars, our luck (as it was considerably easier than some stuff that I've read on here).

  • 3
    Thanks for coming back to share your experience. What you describe should be pretty typical. People who have totally routine stories like you don't spend as much time posting about them, so much of what you read involves non-routine situations, where immigration officials are skeptical and more detailed questioning occurs. That absolutely can happen, but most travelers are admitted more-or-less as you describe. Commented Apr 21, 2019 at 4:31

While Aganju's answer is technically correct, I'll share some of my own experience.

We (family of 6, from New Zealand, boarding in New Zealand) were denied check-in until we could show we had ESTAs. Before allowing us to even begin the self-check-in process used the kiosks at the airport we had to provide proof of the ESTA.

He told us we should have had them printed and ready, and that we should have them for all future flights also.

Once I got the laptop fired up and into our emails to show our ESTA he allowed us to begin. Until then it seemed to be no proof of ESTA, no fly.

  • Thank you. It does seem that they were fine to be presented ESTA proof digitally (in your case on your laptop)?
    – kiradotee
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 11:56
  • 1
    @kiradotee the procedure described here is determined by the airline. Most airlines do not follow this procedure. The way it's supposed to work is that the airline's computer system sends a message to the US system with the traveler's details, and the US responds with a message confining the ESTA or other authorization to board. That's why the US says you don't need a printed copy of your ESTA authorization. So unless you fly with the same airline, you will probably have a different experience.
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 13:09
  • @kiradotee it was the only option, he told us it should have been printed
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 20:00
  • @phoog we were flying with American Airlines. Maybe it was just this guy, or they were having technical difficulties, however if I wasn't able to pull them up on my laptop it seems they wouldn't have allowed us to fly. We now print off copies of all documents even if we're told we don't need to, just in case a situation happens again like this. Better to be safe than sorry
    – Midavalo
    Commented Apr 19, 2019 at 20:03
  • "Better to be safe than sorry": I completely agree. But I've never seen anyone asked for an ESTA printout firsthand (sometimes they ask my wife if she has ESTA, but she has a visa and her passport is not from a VWP country, so she always says "no"). How long ago did this happen to you? Have you flown to the US since then? Did you actually have to show printed copies of your ESTA in your subsequent trips?
    – phoog
    Commented Apr 20, 2019 at 5:16

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