The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries* to travel to the United States for tourism or business without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, provided they meet certain requirements. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel. ESTA is a web-based application system for visitors under the VWP. Those eligible for the VWP may still apply for a visitor (B) visa if they can prove a need to visit the U.S. for longer than the 90-day period allowed by ESTA.
The approved ESTA application and fee receipt must be presented to the airport inspector upon admission to the U.S. The application can be found here: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov.
Travelers on the VWP must have all of the following:
- Possession of a round-trip ticket indicating return passage from the United States;
- ESTA authorization and fee receipt prior to boarding;
- No prior visa ineligibilities, overstays or refusals;
- The correct type of passport, depending on their country (see the DHS website for information). As of April 1, 2016, an e-passport with an embedded chip is required to use the VWP.
Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, will be required to obtain an independent ESTA approval. A third party, such as a law firm or travel agent, will be permitted to submit an ESTA application on behalf of a VWP traveler. Applicants whose applications are denied will be required to apply for a B visitor visa to travel to the United States.
Each approved application is valid for a period of two years, which means that a visitor may travel to the United States repeatedly within a two-year period without having to complete another application. Travelers whose applications are approved, but whose passports will expire in less than two years, will receive an ESTA approval valid until the passport’s expiration date.
For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, see an explanation on the Department of State website.
* Current VWP country participants are: 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 Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.