Visa Waiver Program
- What is the Visa Waiver Program?
- What Countries Participate in the Visa Waiver Program?
- Am I Eligible to Use the Visa Waiver Program to Enter the United States?
- What is the Advantage of Using the Visa Waiver Program?
- What Are the Disadvantages of Using the Visa Waiver Program?
- How Can I Obtain Documents Needed to Use the Visa Waiver Program?
- How Do I Enter the United States Using the Visa Waiver Program?
- Can I Be Readmitted to the U.S. After a Trip to Canada, Mexico, or a Nearby Island?
- What Islands Are Included Within the Meaning of Adjacent Islands?
- HELP! with the Visa Waiver Program
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States without a US Visa if they are visiting for 90 days or less as nonimmigrant visitors for business or pleasure (tourism). The Visa Waiver Program was established in 1986, and it became permanent in October, 2000.
VWP eligible travelers may apply for a US Visa, if they prefer to do so. Nationals of VWP countries must meet the eligibility requirements (below) to travel without a US Visa in the Visa Waiver Program, and therefore, some travelers from VWP countries are not eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are required to have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel and are screened at the port of entry into the United States.
In addition, VWP visitors may not file an application to change status to an immigrant (they may not apply for a Green Card) or another nonimmigrant visa classification or extend their stay beyond the 90-day timeframe. VWP applicants waive their right to proceedings before an immigration judge, unless they make an asylum application.
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zeaand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom*.
* United Kingdom Passports: Only United Kingdom passports notated with “British Citizens” and/or “with unrestricted right of abode in the United Kingdom” are eligible for VWP admission. Holders of passports indicating that the bearer is a British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas Citizen or British National (Overseas) do not qualify for VWP travel.
- Have received an authorization to travel under the Visa Waiver Program through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is a free, automated system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. It collects the same information as the paper I-94W Arrival-Departure Record that VWP travelers fill out en route to the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel. An ESTA authorization generally will be valid for up to two years. Authorizations will be valid for multiple entries into the United States. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, though it is recommended travelers apply when they begin preparing travel plans.
- Have a machine-readable passport valid for 6 months beyond the period of intended stay, or essentially 9 months (90 days + 6 months), unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions. This is a requirement in addition to other passport requirements for all categories of passports -- regular, diplomatic, and official -- when the traveler is seeking to enter the United States for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days. In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements apply.
- The purpose of your stay in the United States is 90 days or less for tourism or business (Visitor (B) visa) purpose of travel. If in doubt, you should check with the nearest US Embassy or USConsulate to verify that what you plan to do is considered tourism or business. Transit through the United States is generally permitted. Important Notice: Foreign media representatives planning to engage in that vocation in the United States are not eligible for VWP travel, as the purpose of their stay does not qualify as “business”. These professionals must obtain a nonimmigrant media (I) visa. Note also that travelers planning to work or study cannot travel on VWP, and they must obtain the appropriate visa to travel to the United States.
- If arriving by air or sea, you are traveling on an approved carrier and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination;
- You can demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the United States and demonstrate sufficient funds to support yourself while in the United States.
- Complete a Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Record.
- Not pose a safety threat to the U.S. and have no previous violation of U.S. admission policy;
- Waive your right to proceedings before an immigration judge, unless you make an asylum application.
What is the Advantage of Using the Visa Waiver Program?
The advantage of entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program is that tourists and people wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the U.S. spontaneously without obtaining visas, unless they are otherwise inadmissible.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using the Visa Waiver Program?
If you are admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you may not change or extend your nonimmigrant status. If your admission is denied you have no right to administrative or judicial review, except as noted above. Likewise, if you are found to have previously violated the terms of your admission, you may not enter under the Visa Waiver Program ever again. Therefore, before using the Visa Waiver Program, you should carefully consider your options.
- For information about obtaining a passport from your country of birth or nationality, you must contact the appropriate agency in that country.
- For more information about Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form, please see I-94 Form (Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94 Card).
How Do I Enter the United States Using the Visa Waiver Program?
You must satisfy the eligibility requirements as listed above.
All VWP applicants must complete and sign I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form, no matter what mode of travel, and whether or not the traveler has received prior authorization to travel via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). At the land borders, Forms I-94W are usually issued in the secondary inspection station and a fee of $6 is required. You must also be admissible to the United States (see persons ineligible for US admission).
Can I Be Readmitted to the U.S. After a Trip to Canada, Mexico, or a Nearby Island?
Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the Visa Waiver Program may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period provided the person:
- Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
- Plans to depart the United States no later than the expiration date of their period of admission,
- Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, and
- Continues to meet all criteria set forth in 8 CFR 217 and section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) 0020 with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.
Anguilla , Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas , Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands , Cayman Islands , Cuba*, Curacao, Dominica , Dominican Republic , Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands, Other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.
* Cuba is not always treated as an Adjacent Island nation for the purposes of entry into the U.S. It is excluded when the specific reference so states.
- Have a specific question? To help you find an answer quickly, we have placed "Ask a Visa & Immigration Lawyer" boxes on this page. Simply type a question in any of the boxes to receive a response online from a visa and immigration lawyer.
- You may contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection directly by calling the CBP Customer Service Center at 1-877-227-5511 or from outside the US at +1-703-526-4200.
- For further assistance outside of the U.S., contact the nearest U.S. Consulate or Embassy.