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  • Visa Waiver Program

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    The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel and meet all requirements explained below. If you prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.


    The following are examples of activities permitted while in the United States on the VWP. In addition, transiting through the United States to other countries is generally permitted for VWP travelers.



    • consult with business associates
    • attend a scientific, educational, professional, or business convention or conference
    • attend short-term training (you may not be paid by any source in the United States with the exception of expenses incidental to your stay)
    • negotiate a contract

    Learn more about Business Travel to the United States (PDF - 362 KB).



    • tourism
    • vacation (holiday)
    • visit with friends or relatives
    • medical treatment
    • participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
    • participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
    • enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)

    Learn more about Visitor Visas - Business and Pleasure (PDF - 510 KB).


    Travel Purposes Not Permitted on Visa Waiver Program – Examples:

    • study, for credit
    • employment
    • work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media
    • permanent residence in the United States


    Requirements for Using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)


    You must meet all of the following requirements to travel to the United States on the VWP:


    Must Be a Citizen or National of a VWP Designated Country


    You must be a citizen or national of the following countries to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP.


    • 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, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom


    *To be eligible to travel under the VWP, British citizens must have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.


    Each Traveler Must Have a Valid ESTA


    In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is a web-based system operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to determine eligibility to travel under the VWP to the United States for tourism or business. Visit the ESTA webpage on the CBP website for more information.


    Updating Your ESTA


    In most cases, your ESTA will be valid for two years.  You also must obtain a new ESTA if you: (1) receive a new passport, including an emergency or temporary passport; (2) change your name; (3) change your gender; (4) change your country of citizenship; or (5) need to change your responses to any of the “yes” or “no” questions on the ESTA application.


    Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015


    Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories must obtain a visa prior to traveling to the United States as they are no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

    • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
    • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

    These individuals can apply for visas using regular appointment processes at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  For those who require a visa for urgent travel to the United States, U.S. Embassies and Consulates stand ready to handle applications on an expedited basis.

    If an individual who is exempt from the Act because of his or her diplomatic or military presence in one of the seven countries has his or her ESTA denied, he or she may go to the CBP website, or contact the CBP information Center. The traveler may also apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

    U.S. Customs and Border Protection strongly recommends that any traveler to the United States check his or her ESTA status prior to making any travel reservations or travelling to the United States. More information is available on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) website


    Have the Correct Type of Passport


    You must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his/her own passport. 


    Sample Passport Image


    In addition, you must have an e-passport to use the VWP. An e-passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. The chip can be scanned to match the identity of the traveler to the passport. E-Passports must be in compliance with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). You can readily identify an e-passport, by a symbol on the cover. See the example below. More information about e-passports is available on the DHS website.


    Passport with e-symbol

    Emergency and Temporary Passports


    If you use an emergency or temporary passport to enter the United States on the VWP, the passport must be an e-passport. This includes VWP travelers who are transiting the United States. 

    More information on frequently asked questions about VWP can be found at the following websites:


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    NOTE: The above information does not address the specific requirements for any given case and is not a substitute for the advice of an attorney.

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