Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the US for 90 days or less as temporary visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a US visa.
A Visa Waiver does not confer authorization to work. Also, because those admitted on the Visa Waiver Program have no visa, time in the US cannot be extended, and they cannot change to another visa status while in the US.
Currently, 37 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, including: 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, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
The United Kingdom (UK) refers only to British citizens who have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man); it does not refer to British overseas citizens, British dependent territories’ citizens, or citizens of British Commonwealth countries.
Visa Waiver Program and the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
Beginning August 1, 2008, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) will be accessible via Internet for citizens and eligible nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries to apply for advance authorization to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. ESTA will initially be available in English only. Other languages will follow.
Effective January 12, 2009, all Visa Waiver Program travelers will be required to obtain an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the US under the Visa Waiver Program. As of September 8, 2010, a fee of $14 will be required to submit an ESTA application.
Log onto the ESTA Web site to complete an online application. Travelers are encouraged to apply early. The web-based system will prompt the applicant to answer basic biographical and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form. Applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, however, DHS recommends that applications be submitted no less than 72 hours prior to travel.
In most cases the applicant will receive a response within seconds:
- “Authorization Approved: Travel authorized.”
- “Travel Not Authorized: Traveler must obtain a nonimmigrant visa at a US Embassy or Consulate before traveling to the US” Or,
- “Authorization Pending: Traveler will need to check the ESTA Web site for updates within 72 hours to receive a final response.”
An approved travel authorization via ESTA is:
- Required for all Visa Waiver Program travelers prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the US under the Visa Waiver Program beginning January 12, 2009.
- Valid, unless revoked, for up to 2 years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first.
- Valid for multiple entries into the US. As future trips are planned, or if an applicant’s destination addresses or itineraries change after their authorization has been approved, they may easily update that information through the ESTA Web Site. And,
- Not a guarantee of admissibility to the US at a port of entry. ESTA approval only authorizes a traveler to board a carrier for travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program.
After January 12, 2009, Visa Waiver travelers who do not apply for and receive travel authorization via ESTA prior to travel may be denied boarding, experience delayed processing or be denied admission at a US port of entry. DHS administers the Visa Waiver Program, which enables citizens and eligible nationals of certain countries to travel to the US for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a US visa.
Visa Waiver Overstays
Under the Visa Waiver regulation, individuals who overstay as part of the Visa Waiver Program must obtain a visa for subsequent visits to the US. In addition, they may face expedited removal upon subsequent visits depending on past violations or overstays and their perceived threat to the US, although CPB has discretion to admit Visa Waiver Program participants whose past overstays are very minor.
Waiver of Rights under the Visa Waiver Program
As a condition of each admission into the US under the Visa Waiver Program, the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the US shall reaffirm the waiver of any rights to review or appeal of a US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) Officer’s determination as to admissibility, or to contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
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