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Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits citizens and nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for a stay of up to 90 days as a nonimmigrant visitor for business or tourism without first having to obtain a visa at a US consulate.

VWP travelers must meet the following conditions:

  1. they are traveling for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2 status);
  2. they will stay in the US for 90 days or less;
  3. they will enter the US via a land border or aboard a participating carrier;
  4. they have an onward or return ticket if traveling by air or sea; and
  5. they have no visa

VWP travelers may not extend their stay beyond 90 days or change to another nonimmigrant or immigrant status.  Anyone who might possibly want to stay longer or change status should obtain a B visa prior to entering the U.S.

All VWP travelers must have a machine readable passport.  Any traveler without a machine readable passport must obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate before coming to the U.S. A machine readable passport can be identified by the presence of two typeface lines printed at the bottom of the biographical page that can be read by a machine.  This requirement applies to all categories of passport: regular, official or diplomatic. Travelers who are not certain whether a passport qualifies as machine readable should contact the passport-issuing authority of their home country.

In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements apply:

Travelers holding passports that do not meet these requirements must obtain a visa at a U.S. consulate before coming to the U.S.

All VWP travelers must comply with the entry and exit requirements of US-VISIT.  US-VISIT was established by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to record the entry and exit of all non-U.S. citizens into and out of the country.  An inkless digital fingerprint and a digital photograph are taken at the port of entry and again upon departure. For additional information, please see the DHS website.

Currently, the following countries participate in the VWP:

Andorra

Hungary

New Zealand

Australia

Iceland

Norway

Austria

Ireland

Portugal

Belgium

Italy

San Marino

Brunei

Japan

Singapore

Czech Republic

Latvia

Slovakia

Denmark

Liechtenstein

Slovenia

Estonia

Lithuania

South Korea

Finland

Luxembourg

Spain

France

Malta

Sweden

Germany

Monaco

Switzerland

Greece

the Netherlands

Taiwan (see note below)

United Kingdom

Tentative agreements have been signed with some other countries that eventually may permit travelers from those countries to participate in the VWP, but at this time only travelers from the above countries may travel to the U.S. without a visa.

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

The Department of Homeland Security requires all VWP travelers to obtain advance approval for travel to the U.S. at least 72 hours prior to their travel through an online pre-approval system.

All citizens or nationals of VWP countries are required to present an approved ESTA prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP.

Effective 8 September 2010, applicants for an ESTA will need to pay a $14 fee by credit card or debit card.

Travelers need to log on to the ESTA website and complete an application online by providing the biographical and eligibility information currently required on the paper I-94W. Applications may be submitted any time prior to travel but no less than 72 hours before departure.  Once submitted, the application will be checked against appropriate law enforcement databases.  In most cases, ESTA will provide an almost immediate determination of eligibility.  Possible responses include: Authorization Approved, Travel Not Authorized, or Authorization Pending.

An approved ESTA travel authorization is:

  1. valid for up to two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first;
  2. valid for multiple entries into the U.S.; and
  3. not a guarantee of admissibility to the S. at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier. In all cases, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers make admissibility determinations at the port of entry.

If the ESTA application is denied, the applicant will be directed to the Department of State website for information on how to apply for a visa to travel to the U.S.: www.travel.state.gov.

For additional information on ESTA, see: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html?_flowExecutionKey=_cEEC1A3FE-2733-7E82-A152-24EC780172C4_kE3FCE8A2-132F-8F5B-794E-3EC6D1B0BF76

For complete information on the Visa Waiver Program, see: http://travel.state.gov/visa/temp/without/without_1261.html.

VWP 10/2012