The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of some countries to travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. Citizens of these countries can use this opportunity for business or tourist purposes. These people have to get a valid ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) instead of a visa. In this article, we will explain the list of authorized countries, how to get ESTA, the requirements of VWP, and other important details in this regard.

Who can travel to this country under the US visa waiver program?

Citizens of the following countries can travel to the United States for up to 90 days without a visa. In addition, nationals of these countries are exempt from transit visas.

FinlandEstoniaDenmarkCzech RepublicChile
San MarinoPortugalPolandNorwayNew Zealand
SpainSouth KoreaSloveniaSlovakiaSingapore
 The United KingdomTaiwanSwitzerlandSweden

In addition, applicants traveling to the United States under the VWP program must:

  • Have ESTA approval
  • Have an e-passport
  • Prove that they will return to their home country after their permission expires

An e-passport is a secure passport that contains an electronic chip. When the microchip is scanned, the passenger’s identity is matched. These passports must comply with the standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). Also, the e-passport must be valid for at least six months from the date of your departure from the United States.

Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015

In 2016, the US Department of Homeland Security made changes to the Visa Waiver Program rules. Based on the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Citizens who are members of VWP countries will no longer be able to travel to the United States without a visa under the following conditions:

  • VWP citizens who have traveled to or been present in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen since March 1, 2011 (except for those traveling for political purposes)
  • Citizens of VWP countries who are nationals of Iran, the Republic of Korea, Iraq, Sudan, and Syria cannot travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program.

Keep in mind that an approved ESTA will not mean definitive entry into the United States. The making decision in this matter is at the discretion of the Customs and Border Protection.

What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?

All those who enter the United States under the VWP, either through the air border or through the sea border, must have the ESTA. This system-based permission is issued by the US Customs and Border Protection and determines the eligibility for travel under the Visa Waiver Program.

In most cases, ESTA is valid for two years. You need to obtain the new ESTA if you:

  • Receive a new passport
  • Change your name
  •  Make gender reassignment surgery
  •  Change your country of citizenship
  •  Want to change the answer to some questions in the ESTA application

Can you use a visa to travel to the United States instead of using VWP?

Yes, you can apply for a visitor’s visa rather than using a visa waiver program. You must also apply for a visitor’s visa if your country is a member of a Visa Waiver Program, but you cannot travel to the United States without a visa. If you plan to stay in the United States for more than 90 days, you cannot enter the country without a valid visa.

Can those who travel to the United States on a Visa Waiver Program increase their stay?

If you enter the US under the VWP, you will not be allowed to extend your stay. You must depart the country before your authorization expires.

How can a country join the US Visa Waiver Program?

If a country intends to be a member of this program, many requirements must be met. Some of those requirements are:

  • That country must be able to issue an e-passport.
  • The rejection rate of the US B visas for that country must be less than three percent.
  • They report stolen passports.
  • The country needs to establish high counterterrorism, law implementation, border control, and security standards.
  • The country must improve law enforcement and data security sharing with the United States.

Can those who travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program apply for a Green Card?

Keep in mind that you can only stay in the United States for 90 days for tourism and business using the Visa Waiver Program. On the other hand, proving that you do not intend to stay permanently and return to your home country is one of the requirements for obtaining this permission. Therefore, it is quite evident that you cannot apply for a US Green Card through VWP.

Can your dependents travel to the United States under this program?

The visa waiver program is issued individually. If you intend to travel to the US with your spouse and children using this program, each person must apply for a visa waiver separately. Even toddlers need to meet the required criteria and have a valid passport.

Do people traveling to the United States under this program need to have health insurance?

Purchasing health insurance is not a requirement for the US Visa Waiver Program and the US visas. However, since the cost of treatment and healthcare in this country is significantly high, it is recommended that you buy appropriate health insurance before traveling.

What are the benefits and limitations of traveling under the US Visa Waiver Program?

As you know, citizens of member countries of the Visa Waiver Program do not need to go through the complicated visa application process, participate in a visa interview, or wait for processing time. They can travel to the United States by taking an online process in a short time. So if you need to enter the United States as soon as possible for reasons such as participation in a commercial negotiation, you can benefit from the VWP.
Besides, people traveling to the US under this program can travel to Mexico, Canada, and the surrounding islands as long as their authorization is valid. These benefits do not apply to other US visas.
To find out what the holders of this visa is allowed to do and what they cannot do, see the table below:

Authorized activitiesUnauthorized activities
  • Negotiating contracts
  • Consult with business partners in the United States
  • Attend conferences and events
  • Settle estates
  • Holidays in the United States
  • Sightseeing in various American cities
  • Medical treatments
  • Participate in music concerts and sporting events without payment
  • Enroll in short-term courses for which you will not receive a degree
  • Study part-time or full-time
  • Performing something and getting paid for it
  • Working in the press and journalism
  • Engagement in any employment
  • Working as a crew on an aircraft or ship
  • Taking steps to obtain permanent residency in the United States

Let’s sum up…

In this article, we described some important details related to the Visa Waiver Program and its requirements. On the Visa Library website, you can learn about other US visas requirements, including the US visa photo requirements, application fee, and processing time as well as ways to immigrate to other countries. In case you have some experience, please write it down in the comment section. Your comments let the readers choose better and avoid mistakes. Conveying your experiences in comments is a great help for applicants.

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