How much money do you need to have on hand when entering USA?
My friend, a Chilean citizen, is entering the US via waiver program to spend 3 weeks in USA in a couple of weeks. She already got her ESTA approval, the plane ticket, all hotels are already booked (but paid by me, not her).
How much money would she need to bring with her when entering US? Do they still check this? She would of course have credit cards with her.
As a visitor from the UK to the USA, about a month ago they asked me how many dollars I was bringing in with me ($700, for a 10 day trip).
The answers to this question are very indicative of the whims of US CBP. The rules are pretty much if you 'look Western' and/or well off, most CBP officers in a good mood won't ask nor care. If you 'look' non-Western (dare I say Arabic or Hispanic?) and/or "low-rent" - chances are all of a sudden they'll care. For a country that has been trying to legislate freedom from discrimination *of any kind for any reason* it isn't fair or reasonable, but true nonetheless.
Having too much cash ("currency or monetary instruments" over $10,000) may be even worse, *"Failure to report* [or mis-reporting] *may result in seizure of the currency and/or arrest"* http://tinyurl.com/lfvj69y And traveling the USA's highways with cash could be trouble too http://www.washingtonpost.com/sf/investigative/2014/09/06/stop-and-seize/ *"seizure of hundreds of millions of dollars in cash from motorists and others **not charged with crimes**"*, and one of the (many arbitrary) things they look for is rental cars. +1 to using debit/credit cards.
It helps to understand the goal of the CBP. They're looking for people who are (A) planning to overstay or (B) planning to work while on a tourist visa. The first category may have excessive funds on them, the second category may be lacking funds. Looking "well-off" (to quote CGCampbell) is an indication of a good job elsewhere. That tends to exclude you from both categories, even when travelling with quite some cash. IOW, if you travel with $5K on you, is that for 12 months rent or a new suit?
Enough to support yourself for that period of time you're in the country.
It's frustrating, but there's no fixed number. They'll likely ask your friend about her trip, where she's going, what she's booked and how she'll support herself. It's just to make sure that she's thought through how much she'll need to spend and support herself, without getting into financial difficulties.
I've been in to the US half a dozen times, and while I've been questioned, I've never actually been asked to show proof of funds. And certainly you don't need much cash on hand, if you have access to more through your credit card / bank / traveller cheques.
Short-version: there's no exact figure, just evidence that she'll be able to cover herself for her travels.
To add to this, it makes a significant difference if you have hotels etc pre-booked: You could feed yourself for a 10 day trip for $200, but you sure as hell couldn't get somewhere to stay for that much.
Not sure if it is really correct to say "Enough to support yourself". They are looking for a practical real world response, not a quote from a law book. I have seen border agents say that $2000 is not enough for a handful of days (3-5, something like that). The agents do not necessarily have any idea how little or how much it can take to live on.
@JonathonWisnoski sure, but the point is they're going to ask you for evidence of this. So if you say "well I'm backpacking, staying in hostels for a week" versus "I'm on a luxury exploration of the west coast", they're going to have different expectations of what is required to support. And after even a week of interviewing people, I think you'll find they have a pretty good idea of who is prepared and who isn't :/
It may sound strange, as many travelers here point out that they never been asked if they brought enough money while entering the US. But the U.S. Customs and Border Protection states that:
Travelers visiting the U.S. must be able to prove to a CBP Officer that they have sufficient funds (i.e. credit cards, cash, travelers checks, money orders etc.)
Good thing is that credit cards are accepted as a mean of sufficient funds. To be able to give some proof, everytime I travel to a foreign country I bring with me a print of my last credit card bill where it shows my credit limit. Never had to show it to any immigration officer, but is a simple measure and should work as a proof of funds.
I traveled to the USA this December from South Africa and they did not check how much cash I had. I actually had 0 dollars on me. All I had was my credit and cheque cards that I could use across America. There was no issue.
So unless you find some text on the visa website you do not need to have hard cash with you at the time of entrance.
As a traveler from Europe on two occasions, this has been my experience as well. I can't recall having needed to discuss money at all.
Same for me. 6x times to USA from Europe in the last 2 years. The question never came up. And I never traveled with more than $100 in cash. Twice without any dollars at all. I prefer to withdraw from an ATM when I arrive. It is usually cheaper than buying $$$ in Europe. If I carry $$$ on the flight it is left-over money from the previous trip.
Your friend will need "access to sufficient funds to support themselves during their stay". This can be as low as "nothing" if a local resident is waiting outside to pick them up, "access" in this example being your wallet. A lot will depend on what the immigration agent thinks of your friend (and/or you) when they approach the desk. Clothing, accessories, baggage are all part of the process. If you look moderately well off (not rich, just comfortable - the trip might be expensive for you but it's not beyond your means) then they won't ask further. Possession of a credit card will be assumed unless you provide reason to assume otherwise.
If you look like a "USA on $20/day" backpacker, a refugee, or anyone else who may need to do things like get an (illegal) job to pay their way then they will want to see some cash and/or a functional bank card, itinerary, local contacts, return ticket etc.
So just tell Miss Chile to dress nice, check her hair before landing, smile and be pleasant. You do the same - be the person immigration will take one look at and say "no problem". An Armani suit might be a bit much if its a weekend arrival but Hugo Boss casual wear will work. LL Bean at least.
Second this. I've been in a lot of countries and the only time I've had trouble getting in was once in England when we looked more like the $20/day backpacker--we had just spent 4 months crossing Africa and a thief had gotten to our stored clothes, we only had our worn and tropical attire.
I've travelled to the US from Ireland 10+ times on a visa waiver programme (ESTA) and never asked about my funds or cash at immigration. I almost always travel with no USD$ (sometimes I have about $50 for emergency's, sometimes $0), just my credit and debit cards.
Never been a problem. Never been asked ANYTHING about funds. But, I am a 40y/o white guy from a western country, so your mileage may vary.
It's weird how people have such different experiences. I'm also 40-ish, white and from a western country. I've travelled on VWP from the UK many times and they almost always ask me how much cash I have with me. They've also always been entirely happy when I've said something like, "Er, about $15 but I use my cards."
Interesting. I am from Europe and every time I enter the US on ESTA the immigration officers ask me how much money I have with me. First, I made a mistake and told them the truth that I have $200 and they didn't like it. They asked me after that again, so I figured it was an issue, so I had to tell them I have $200 cash and about $1000 on my European atm card (which wasn't really true). Luckily, they didn't want a proof. They let me go, but asked me everything about what job I have, etc. before. Last time, I was coming to the US from Bahamas and they asked me again how much money I had. So, they do ask...