The Visa Waiver Program is, operated by the Department of Homeland Security in conjunction with the State Department and allows citizens of forty countries to come to the United States for business or tourist without a visa for stays of up to ninety days.

Travelers wanting to enter the United States for business or tourism (B-1/B-2 visa) or in  Transit, C Visa For Transit for fewer than 90 days may be eligible for visa-free entry under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).

Since its founding in 1986, the VWP has developed into an all-encompassing security collaboration with several of the United States’ closest allies. The VWP, operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in conjunction with the State Department, employs a risk-based, multi-layered strategy to identify and prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other bad actors from entering the United States. This strategy comprises monthly, national-level risk assessments regarding the effect of each program country’s VWP participation on U.S. national security and law enforcement interests. It also entails, among other things, a thorough screening of VWP travelers before their departure for the USA, upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry, and throughout any further air travel inside the United States.

You cannot use the VWP if the objective of your trip is to study for academic credit, get employment, work in the foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media, or establish permanent residency.

Citizens of the following countries are can to apply for a Visitor Visa Waiver: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, Brunei, Chile, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco,  Norway, Portugal, the Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and Taiwan.

The following groups of travelers are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP:

  • Nationals of VWP nations who traveled to or were physically present in Iraq, North Korea, Somalia, or Yemen on or after March 1, Syria, Iran, Sudan, and Libya, 2011 (with restricted exclusions);
  • Citizens of VWP nations who are also citizens of Iraq, Syria, Iran, North Korea, or Sudan.
  • These limitations do not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in Iran, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Iraq, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, or Yemen was to serve in the armed forces of a program nation or to execute official responsibilities as a full-time government employee of a program country. When traveling via a U.S. port of entry, it is suggested that people who have been to one or more of the seven nations mentioned above for military or official reasons carry the required documents. These exclusions do not, however, apply to the ban on dual citizens of one of the relevant nations (the “dual national restriction”).

What should I do if I come under one of the Act’s VWP travel restrictions?

The limitations do not prohibit travel to the United States but require law-abiding travelers to seek a visa from a U.S. Embassy or the Consulate. Visa interview wait times at most U.S. Embassies and Consulates in VWP partner nations and throughout the globe are brief.

You may seek an accelerated visa appointment if you are applying for a non-immigrant visa following ESTA rejection or revocation due to the Act and have impending travel for business, medical, or humanitarian reasons to the United States.

Visas provide many benefits over the ESTA, including the ability to remain in the USA for up to six months at a time, compared to the VWP’s maximum of 90 days. The VWP does not permit visa travelers to extend their stay beyond six months or alter their visa class while in the United States.

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