The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows people from certain countries to enter the United States without a visa in their passport. The visit must be for 90 days or less and you must be traveling for either business or tourism purposes. To participate in this program you must meet certain requirements, detailed below:
Be a citizen or national of a Visa Waiver Program participant country.
The complete list of countries that participate in the VWP can be found at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/frequently-asked-questions-about-visa-waiver-program-vwp-and-electronic-system-travel.
Be authorized through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States.
ESTA is an automated, web-based system run by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CPB) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that determines whether a person is eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. CPB recommends that you apply for ESTA at least 72 hours before you travel. An ESTA travel authorization is generally valid for two years from the date of authorization or until your passport expires. There is a $4.00 processing fee and an additional $10.00 fee if your application is approved. For more information on ESTA, as well as how to submit an application for travel authorization, please visit the ESTA website: http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/esta.
Travel on an approved carrier and be able to show a roundtrip ticket to a country outside the United States.
The complete list of approved carriers for entering the United States can be found here: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/87163.pdf.
Your passport must be the correct type and must be valid for at least 6 months after your departure.
Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months past the date of your departure from the United States. In addition, you must have a machine-readable passport with an integrated chip containing information from the passport data page. The passport requirements vary slightly between countries, so it is best to check the current requirements at the U.S. Department of State’s website: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/visa-waiver-program.html.
Must have complied with conditions of admission to the United States during any previous visits.
If you visited the United States with a visa or under the VWP on past occasions, you must have complied with the conditions of your admission, and not engaged in any unauthorized activities. If you previously applied for a visa to the United States and it was denied, this could result in the denial of your ESTA application.
Advantages of the Visa Waiver Program
Using the VWP allows you to skip the visa application process and enter the United States without a visa in your passport. The ESTA application is short, can be completed online and determines your eligibility almost instantaneously.
Disadvantages of the Visa Waiver Program
If you enter the United States on the VWP you will not have the option of extending your stay past 90 days or modifying your visa status. For example, it is possible to enter the United States on a B visa for tourism or business and then change your status to another visa. This is not possible if you enter on the VWP. Another disadvantage of the VWP is that there is no right to an appeal if your application is denied. Additionally, you waive your right to a review or appeal of any removal action if you are found to have violated the conditions of your admission.
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Ian E. Scott, Esq. is the Founder of Scott Legal, P.C. He can be reached at 212-223-2964 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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