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VISA WAIVER PROGRAM (VWP) and ESTA

VISA WAIVER PROGRAM (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


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.

Qualifications

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


ELECTRONIC SYSTEM FOR TRAVEL AUTHORIZATION (ESTA)

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

  • 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).

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.

NOTE

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.