Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and ESTA

What Countries Are Eligible for VWP?

Most European countries and U.S.-allied countries like Japan, Australia and New Zealand are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Nationals from these countries can enter the U.S. for business or tourism for up to 90 days without a visa.

Countries currently eligible for VWP:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Republic of Korea
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Who Is Not Eligible under VWP?

Nationals from VWP countries who traveled to the Muslim travel ban nations anytime after May 2011 no longer qualify for the VWP and must apply for a visa, unless they were traveling for the VWP country’s government or military purposes. New countries can be added to the travel ban list by Homeland Security at any time.

What Are the Requirements to Travel under the Visa Waiver Program?

  • The traveler is a citizen of the VWP countries.
  • They possess a valid electronic passport with a chip containing biometric information about the traveler
  • They have Electronic System Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval -- see below for more information.
  • They plan to stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less for business, pleasure/tourism or transit.
  • They possess a return ticket or electronic itinerary showing intention to leave the U.S. within 90 days.

What is Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

One of the requirements to travel under the Visa Waiver Program is approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This automated system asks biographic questions based on what the U.S. considers a law enforcement or security risk. ESTA was introduced following the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act).

An approved ESTA does not take the place of a visa, and visa holders do not need to apply for ESTA. Also, ESTA is approved in advance of travel, but U.S. Customs and Border Patrol can still deny entry upon their arrival based on their own determinations.

Requirements for ESTA

  • Travelers under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must possess a valid electronic passport
  • Accompanied and unaccompanied children must all be ESTA approved independently.
  • Processing charge ($4) and, if approved, an authorization charge ($10).

ESTA Timeline

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol recommend that ESTA applications be submitted 72 hours before travel. Normally, ESTA will respond within seconds of submission.

Traveling by Land Under VWP?

Travelers coming to the U.S. by land under VWP do not need to apply for ESTA. At the land border crossing, VWP passport holders only need to complete the I-94W form.


Have a question about VWP or ESTA? Call an Irvine immigration lawyer at Yekrangi & Associates online or call (949) 478-4963 today!
Services available in Spanish, Farsi, and Mandarin.

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