News report | | 03/05/2024 | ±4 minutes reading time

The 2026 FIFA World Cup will take place in the USA, Canada and Mexico. Even though the start of the tournament is still far in the future, some fans already have to worry about receiving their US visa on time. This is because waiting times for visa applications can be upwards of 800 days.

The 2026 World Cup will be hosted by three countries

The USA, Canada and Mexico will jointly host the 2026 World Cup in football. This is only the second time in history that the World Cup is hosted by more than one country. This happened before in 2002, when the World Cup was played in Japan and South Korea. Multiple countries co-hosting the biggest football tournament in the world is likely to happen more commonly in the future. This is mostly due to the high costs that are linked to hosting and the strict requirements in the areas of infrastructure and security that hosts need to meet. For many countries, it is simply impossible to host a sporting event on the scale of the FIFA World Cup on their own, so they cooperate with their neighbouring countries.

Visa requirements for multiple countries

Countries co-hosting sporting events is not only advantageous, since it can also cause problems for players and fans. For them, it usually means that they have to travel longer distances to participate in different matches. Also, it can create additional red tape. In the case of the 2026 World Cup in the USA, Canada and Mexico, some fans will need three different visas or travel authorisations if they want to go to matches in all three hosting countries. In most cases, Europeans do not need a visa for Mexico, but they will usually need to apply for an ESTA for the USA and an eTA for Canada. Since all matches from the quarter-finals onwards will be played in the USA, many fans will want to obtain at least a US visa or travel authorisation.

Visit the WC in the USA with an ESTA

Travellers from the UK, Ireland and most other European countries can use an ESTA USA to go to matches of the 2026 World Cup in the USA. An ESTA application can be submitted online within a few minutes, and the travel authorisation will usually be issued after 3 days. Since the ESTA can be obtained on a short notice, travellers who fulfil the ESTA requirements do not need to worry about receiving their travel authorisation on time. Nevertheless, it is recommended to apply for the ESTA USA well in advance. The application can already be submitted up to 2 years before the expected departure date from the USA.

Long waiting times for a US visa

Travellers who do not fulfil the ESTA requirements need a visa to be allowed entry to the USA. A visa application is much more complicated and takes a lot longer than an ESTA application. This is mostly due to the interview at the American embassy or consulate, which is a mandatory part of visa applications. Waiting times for appointments have been rising tremendously in certain countries, particularly in Latin America. In some cities, applicants need to wait more than two years(!) for an interview appointment.

Football fans from Latin America face difficulties

Football fans from the Mexican capital are already unable to schedule an interview appointment which would allow them to receive their US visa on time for the 2026 FIFA World Cup. Applicants from the football superpowers Brazil and Argentina have to wait somewhat shorter for a visa interview, but even there, waiting times of more than 100 days are not uncommon. It is to be expected that the pressure on the embassies and consulates will only increase as the World Cup comes closer. Therefore, various organisations, including the FIFA, are already ringing the alarm bells. The American immigration services advise football fans to apply for a visa now, even if they are still unsure whether they will go to the World Cup after all.

Outlook for an improved visa situation

The difficult situation surrounding visas for the 2026 World Cup has led to crisis meetings between the US authorities and travel organisations in the USA. In these talks, the urgency of the issue was laid out to the US authorities. If the Latin American football fans, who are known to be fanatical supporters, are unable to cheer for their teams because they are unable to obtain a visa, it will surely have a detrimental impact on the atmosphere during the last phases of the World Cup in the USA.

The US authorities promised to take steps to be able to process visa applications more quickly. Furthermore, the FIFA has become closely involved with the US government to solve these types of logistical issues. However, the US authorities also made clear that they will not revise their entire visa policy for an event like the 2026 World Cup, so football fans who need a US visa are not out of the woods yet.

e-Visa.co.uk is a commercial and professional visa agency, and supports travellers in obtaining, among others, the ESTA USA. e-Visa.co.uk acts as an intermediary and is in no way part of any government. You can also apply for an ESTA directly with the immigration service (21 USD per ESTA, via esta.cbp.dhs.gov). However, not with our level of support. If you submit your application via e-Visa.co.uk, our support centre is available to you 24/7. In addition, we manually check your application and all the documents you provide before submitting it to the immigration authorities on your behalf. If we suspect any errors or omissions while doing so, we will personally contact you to ensure that your application can still be processed quickly and correctly. To use our services, you pay us 21 USD in consular fees, which we pay to the immigration service on your behalf, as well as £33.41 in service fees as compensation for our services, including VAT. Our services have saved many travellers from major problems during their trip. Should an application be rejected despite our support and verification, we will refund the full purchase price (unless an application for a previous ESTA USA was rejected for the same traveller). Read more about our services here.