Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of promoting better relations with U.S. allies, eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are screened prior to admission into the United States and they are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.
Currently, 27 countries participate in the VWP: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Nationals of the 27 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may use the VWP if the purpose of their stay in the United States is 90 days or less for tourism or business. If in doubt, travelers should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate to verify that what they plan to do is considered tourism or business. Transit through the United States is generally permitted. Note that foreign media representatives planning to engage in that vocation in the U.S. are not eligible, as the purpose of their stay does not qualify as “business.” These professionals must obtain a nonimmigrant media (I) visa.
VWP travelers must present a machine-readable passport (MRP) valid for six months past their expected stay in the U.S., unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions. This includes all categories of passports—regular, diplomatic and official, when the traveler is seeking to enter the U.S. for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days. Previous one-time exemptions for first-time VWP travelers without MRPs ended June 26, 2005.
In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements will apply:
Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended before October 26, 2005: No further requirements.
Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended between October 26, 2005, and October 26, 2006: Require a digital photograph integrated into the data page or integrated chip containing information from the data page.
Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended on or after October 26, 2006: Require an integrated chip with information from the data page.
VWP travelers must comply with the conditions of previous admissions under the Visa Waiver Program, and must not be found ineligible for a U.S. visa.
If arriving by air or sea, VWP travelers must travel on an approved carrier and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination other than the U.S. or adjacent islands. If arriving by land, VWP travelers must demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the U.S. and sufficient funds to support themselves in the U.S.