The U.S. government has established the “Visa Waiver Program (VWP) which enables visitors from specific countries to travel to the United States without the need to obtain a visa. This article provides essential details about the VWP, such as the eligible nations, requirements, and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
Overview of the Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program enables individuals from certain countries to visit the US for tourism or business purposes without the need for a visa. Nonetheless, not all countries are part of this program, and even for participating countries, not all travelers are qualified to avail of it. To use the program, VWP travelers have to seek authorization by applying through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), undergo screening upon their arrival to the US, and be enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s OBIM program.
The Visa Waiver Program includes 39 member countries whose nationals can visit the US for up to 90 days for tourism or business without a visa:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- Republic of Korea
- San Marino
- The Netherlands
- United Kingdom
Qualifications for Visa Waiver Program
To be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, individuals must satisfy the criteria outlined below:
- Hold a passport that meets VWP standards and be a citizen of one of the countries included in the program.
- Possess valid ESTA authorization.
- Plan to visit the USA for 90 days or less.
- Intend to use the visit for transit, tourism, or business purposes.
- Demonstrate the possession of adequate funds to sustain themselves during their stay and possess an onward or return ticket.
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
Individuals who want to travel to the United States for short-term business or leisure purposes and are citizens or nationals of VWP countries must obtain an authorized ESTA before boarding a flight or ship that will take them to the US under the VWP. The ESTA is an automated system that evaluates the qualifications of travelers who want to visit the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. The system collects personal information and responses to VWP qualification questions. An ESTA is typically valid for two years, or until the expiry of the passport of the traveler, whichever occurs first.
Beginning April 1, 2016, individuals who plan to enter the USA using the Visa Waiver Program must possess a functional electronic passport, which is a passport that has an embedded chip. This applies to all VWP-eligible individuals, including those with a valid ESTA. Furthermore, nationals who are citizens of countries eligible for the Visa Waiver Program and have visited or traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, North Korea, and/or Sudan since March 1, 2011, are prohibited from using the VWP to enter or travel to the USA.”
The Visa Waiver Program is a highly efficient and convenient option for eligible foreign nationals to visit the USA for business or tourism purposes. However, it is important to note that the Visa Waiver Program is not available to all travelers from the countries that participate in the program, and certain criteria must be met to qualify. A comprehensive understanding of the program’s qualifications and requirements can assist travelers in making their journey to the United States more comfortable and enjoyable.