Most visitors to the United States enter the country as tourists. With the introduction of visa-free travel to citizens of 27 designated countries, it is now possible for many travelers to enter the United States without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (WVP). Visa-free travel is also available to qualified travelers who enter the United States on business, holiday travel, or in transit.
What are the designated countries?
The 27 designated countries are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
October 17, 2008, the Visa Waiver Program was expanded to include seven new countries: Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Republic of Korea and the Slovak Republic. DHS has announced that nationals of these countries will be able to travel without a visa for tourist and business travel of 90- days or less beginning on November 17, 2008, provided they possess a biometric passport and register on-line through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). For additional information, review the Visa Waiver Program.
Who can use the Visa Waiver Program?
Citizens of designated countries, including British citizens with right-of-abode, may enter the United States without a visa for periods of less than 90 days for business, holiday travel or in transit with no possibility of an extension. Visitors may arrive at sea or air borders of the United States aboard a participating commercial carrier. Application forms are available at the port-of-entry or from a participating airline or cruise company. Visa-free entry by car or other carrier is also possible. Visitors who wish to use the Visa Waiver Program must have machine-readable passports.
Visa Waiver Program Passport Requirements
The citizens of these countries may travel visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program if they meet ALL of the following requirements:
- The traveler is a citizen of one of the countries named above, traveling on a valid, machine readable or e-passport with an electronic chip. Failure to determine that your passport qualifies for the VWP may result in you being denied boarding by the airline.
- Traveling for business, pleasure or transit only;
- Staying in the United States for 90-days or less; Plus, if entering the United States by air or sea is,
- Holding a return or onward ticket. If traveling on an electronic ticket, a copy of the itinerary must be carried for presentation to U.S. immigration at the port-of-entry. Note: Travelers with onward tickets terminating in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas;
- Entering the United States aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program. This includes aircraft of a U.S. corporation that has entered into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to carry passengers under the Visa Waiver Program. Note: Other private or official aircraft or vessels do not meet this requirement; and
- In possession of a completed form I-94W, obtainable from airline and shipping companies; Or, if entering the United States by land from Canada or Mexico,
- Is in possession of a completed form I-94W, issued by the immigration authorities at the port-of-entry, and a $6.00 fee, payable only in U.S. dollars.
Electronic System of Travel Authorization (ESTA) Required in Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announces implementation of the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), which will begin to accept voluntary ESTA applications starting on August 1, 2008. Enrollment in ESTA will be mandatory for all VWP participants effective January 12, 2009. If you have a visa to visit the USA, or a Canadian passport, this message does not apply to you. The ESTA applies only to Visa Waiver Program participants. For additional information, view our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).
Conditions of the Visa Waiver Program
To use the program, visitors must waive all rights of review or appeal of decisions made by an immigration officer and all rights to contest action in deportation except for asylum. They are not eligible to study, work or change their visa status after they enter the United States. Applicants with certain visa ineligibilities, such as carriers of communicable diseases, narcotics addicts or traffickers, convicted criminals, or deportees from the United States, cannot apply for the Visa Waiver Program. Visitors who have previously been found ineligible for a U.S. visa are similarly ineligible for the program.
NOTE: Some travelers may not be eligible to enter the United States visa-free under the VWP. These include people who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records, (the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act does not apply to U.S. visa law), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the United States, or have previously overstayed on the VWP. Such travelers must apply for special restricted visas. If they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the United States.