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Background:

  • I'm French and I was 13/15 years old in 2004/2006.
  • I need a B1/B2 visa this trip because I'll be entering the US in a private plane in August, which does not qualify for ESTA.

I'm currently filling out the B1/B2 visa request form.
At some point, it asks if I already traveled to the US and if I ever had a visa issued.
I went to the US 3 times before, in 2004, 2006 and 2016, each time as a tourist.

In 2016 I had an ESTA, but in 2004 and 2006 it wasn't a thing yet and my parents can't remember if they had to get a visa for me.

My question is: As a French child, did I need a visa to get into the US in 2004 and 2006?

  • 3
    It is possible for private plane operators to join the Visa Waiver Program. Many already have (here is a list). If whoever is operating the flight will go to the US frequently, then they may wish to do so. – Michael Hampton Jun 11 at 16:37
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    @MichaelHampton I’m not sure what you mean by « operators » but in my case « private » means owned and flown by private pilots. There is no paying passengers aboard. – qht Jun 11 at 16:41
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    US-based operators can sign up for the VWP as private pilots, it doesn't have to be commercial. But for non-US operators it can only be commercial flights (e.g. charter). – Michael Hampton Jun 11 at 16:45
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    In that case it is probably not an option for you (unless you have a US-registered plane owned by a US company, as many people around the world do). But it might be an option for other people who read this question. – Michael Hampton Jun 11 at 16:47
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    Thanks. We have a France registered plane, owned by a French company. Visa it is! – qht Jun 11 at 16:48
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ESTA did not exist in those days, but the visa waiver program (VWP) did. Most likely, you and your parents traveled under the VWP. The practical consequence of this is that you will have filled out green I-94W forms instead of white I-94 forms just before arriving in the US (in addition to the blue-and-white customs form that is still in use today). Therefore:

As a French child, did I need a visa to get in the US in 2004 and 2006?

No, you did not need a visa.

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    Yes! I do remember the green paper stapled in my passport when I was a kid! Thanks :) – qht Jun 11 at 15:42
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    Specifically, the Visa Waiver Program began in 1988, and France joined in 1989, according to Wikipedia. – David Richerby Jun 11 at 16:22
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    in addition to the blue-and-white customs form that is still in use today, when I last flew to the US last month, arriving via DTW, there was no such form, apparently discontinued? – gerrit Jun 12 at 15:23
  • @gerrit when was that? I most recently flew to the US last year, and I needed one. Users of automated kiosks don't need them, apparently, but my wife cannot use those kiosks, so we get the form on the plane and hand it to the passport inspector as we always have. – phoog Jun 12 at 16:07
  • @phoog This was 2019-05-12. IIRC Delta Airlines staff told us landing cards were no longer necessary and I didn't fill one. The immigration officer asked me if I was bringing in any fresh fruit. I was travelling on a visa and did not use any automated kiosk (I don't know if that is relevant though). – gerrit Jun 12 at 16:19

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