ESTA application and traveling to Saipan
Traveling to Saipan: What’s the difference between Saipan and Guam?
It is said that Saipan and Guam have many things in common.
They are similar in their warm climates, though they also differ in many ways, including the sizes of the islands, the scales of their commercial facilities, and the islands’ overall atmosphere. For example, while size of Guam is about 540 square kilometers in area, Saipan is only about one-fourth of that size, at approximately 120 square kilometers. Also, Guam is home to numerous shopping centers and other places to shop, such as outlet malls and boutiques, centered on the area near Tumon Bay. On the other hand, Saipan, which aims to preserve its small land area and sea, has fewer retail facilities but a wealth of natural beauty compared to Guam.
As a tropical island, Saipan has a leisurely feel year-round as a tropical island and has a character which offers more opportunities to interact with locals. In addition to Saipan’s main beach, known as Micro Beach, it is dotted with beaches of various sizes around the island, some of which even can be stayed on as if they were private beaches in their entirety depending on the season. These are advantages that Guam may not offer.
Although Saipan may not seem as attractive and bright as Guam, it has a comfortable leisurely feel and is perfect for trips mainly for enjoying marine activities or short-term tropical experiences.
Before visiting Saipan: Preparation of the necessary documents
Under U.S. government regulations submittal of the following documents in addition to a passport when entering Saipan.
The documents that must be submitted differ among the three entry status categories below.
|1.Those who have not applied for ESTA
(Planning to stay up to 45 days under the Guam-Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program)
|Form I-94, Form I-736, Customs Declaration|
|2.Those who have applied for and received ESTA authorization
(Planning to stay up to 90 days under the Visa Waiver Program)
|Customs Declaration only|
|3.Those who have attained visas||Customs Declaration only|
(All of the above documents will be distributed during your outward flight and required to be filled out then.)
The following documents are required to be able to enter Guam and Saipan.
Visa waiver program
Guam and Saipan have their own program that differs from the U.S. Visa Waiver Program, called the Guam-Northern Mariana Islands Visa Waiver Program (Guam-CNMI VWP).
Key points for traveling to Saipan: Entry visas and immigration screening fee
The maximum length of time a traveler can stay in Saipan without ESTA authorization is 45 days. However, if you apply for and receive ESTA authorization you can stay up to 90 days without a visa.
The Guam-Northern Mariana Islands (Guam-CNMI) Visa Waiver Program was established November 28, 2009 for the Northern Mariana Islands (Rota, Tinian, and Saipan). Under this program (Guam-CNMI), it is required to make payment of an immigration screening fee (US $7) in the same time your air ticket is issued.
Is ESTA necessary to travel to Saipan?
Travelers may visit Saipan without applying for ESTA. However, those without ESTA authorization must submit more documents when they enter the country. These forms are required to be filled out on board their outbound flight. Also, it takes longer to obtain permission to enter the country after landing at the airport if a traveler does not have ESTA, and this can be stressful for many.
Just like Saipan, Guam can be entered without applying for ESTA too, although the lines for immigration screening may be very long peak travel periods or during periods of consecutive holidays.
The three advantages of applying for ESTA when traveling to Saipan
- ① ESTA enables shorter waiting periods and less stress during immigration screening
- ② By holding ESTA, the two forms you are supposed to fill out in English and submit will be waived.
- ③ When holding ESTA, up to 90 days of stay can be available (rather than the normal 45 days)
By applying for and obtaining ESTA, the special ESTA lanes can be used during immigration screening after your arrival at the airport. The ESTA lanes shorten the time required for immigration screening, helping to lessen the stress of travel. Another major advantage of ESTA is that it eliminates the submission of those two forms that usually are required to be filled out on board flights.
In a case of not obtaining ESTA, those two forms for immigration screening, I-736 and I-94, will be required to be filled out and submitted. They are distributed in flight and must be completed entirely in English. If, after landing at the airport, an error or omission is found in these forms during immigration screening, you may be asked to fill them out again. Applying for ESTA in advance is recommended especially for those who wish to relax during their flight without worrying about filling out forms.
The greatest advantage of ESTA is the fact that you are allowed to stay up to 90 days. Travelers who have not applied for ESTA may stay up to only 45 days at the longest. Those who want to stay in Saipan or Guam for a longer time are encouraged to apply for ESTA.
ESTA provides support for a comfortable stay in Saipan
Not only is ESTA intended to protect the safety and security of the continental U.S. and U.S. islands such as Saipan, but it also helps to ensure smooth travel and stays from entry to exit, by confirming your identification.
It is required for travelers without visas to obtain ESTA to stay up to 90 days in the continental U.S. It enables more comfortable, smoother immigration screening when traveling to Saipan and Guam as well.
We recommend applying for ESTA when traveling to Saipan and Guam too.
Is staying in Saipan or Guam without an ESTA possible?: A special program under U.S. immigration law
Unlike ESTA, the Guam-CNMI VWP does not require applying online prior to travel, although the following six conditions need to be satisfied. Therefore, be sure you understand this information beforehand.
- ① Must have a passport with an IC chip (preferably one valid for at least two weeks)
- ② Purpose of the entry is for sightseeing, not employment or work
- ③ Staying only in Guam or the Northern Mariana Islands, and the period is less than 45 days
- ④ Must have a return air ticket to your home country for a date no more than 45 days after arrival
- ⑤ All necessary items for the Guam-CNMI VW on Form I-736 are filled out
- ⑥ All necessary items for the Guam-CNMI VW on Form I-94 are filled out
In addition to these six basic conditions, other conditions apply such as not having a criminal record or having violated immigration law in the past.
If you satisfy these conditions and are authorized under the Guam-CNMI VWP, you may stay up to 45 days.
Those who are required to have visas
Those traveling to the U.S., including Saipan, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands, to work or study, those with certain medical conditions, those who are involved in serious disputes or have been arrested in the past, and those who have been refused entry to the U.S. in the past are likely not to satisfy these conditions. We recommend those travelers apply for the visa which usually is needed for travel to the U.S.
You may be able to stay for an extra 15 days in some cases
Under a program added to the Guam-CNMI VWP in 2009, if a traveler is recognized to be in an emergency situation, such as having been in an accident or being hospitalized while staying in Saipan or Guam, he or she may be permitted to stay an additional 15 days in addition to the 45-day period.
The additional 15 days is for purposes of medical care for those who are eligible or for family members, and it applies in an emergency only. Generally, travelers from overseas are permitted to stay in Saipan and Guam for only 45 days, but this extension program was added in response to numerous past cases of travelers from overseas being involved in accidents or getting injured during their stay.
Be sure to plan a fun, safe trip so that your family and other members of your group can enjoy themselves with peace of mind.