• June 2019
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What is the USA Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens from certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business. These stays must be for 90 days or less. Plus, program participants must meet strict guidelines to qualify. However, if your stay fits these requirements, it can be much easier to travel to the US under the VWP than obtaining a B visa.

Program Requirements

The very first requirement of the visa waiver program is that your travel would qualify you for a B visa – either for business or tourism. You can find a full list of requirements under either visa, in reference to VWP here. Keep in mind, one cannot make any money while in the US on either the business or tourism visas. Check out our article, here, for more information on the rules for making money while in the US on a B Visa.  Therefore, if you do not meet the B Visa qualifications, you may need to find a better visa for your purposes. And, the VWP would not be for you.

On the other hand, if you meet the visa requirement portion and the VWP sounds good, read on. Unfortunately, there are still additional requirements to qualify for the program. These requirements are:

  1. Be a citizen or national of a VWP designated country. The list can be found here,
    1. Interestingly, British citizens must have unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
  2. Each Traveler Must Have a Valid ESTA,
    1. In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Additional information on ESTA can be found here.
    2. In most cases, an ESTA will be valid for two years. Obtaining a new ESTA is required 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.
  3. Every person, even children, traveling to the US needs their own passport. This passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond your planned US departure.
    1. These passports must also be e-passports – meaning they are embedded with an electronic chip. The e-passport requirement is in place even if traveling on an emergency or temporary passport.

VWP Updates Due to Global Terrorism

During the Obama administration, the United States passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. This made changes to the blanket acceptance of certain travelers attempting to use the VWP. 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 waiver program:

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in 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 Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

If you fall into one of these categories, that does not mean you are unable to enter the US. In this instance, you can apply for a B1 or B2 visa (depending on your reason for coming to the US) using regular visa processes.

VWP: Is It Right For You?

It is not always easy to know if you qualify for anything visa related. Add in the fact that the Visa Waiver Program applicant has two sets of standards and requirements to meet. A knowledgeable immigration attorney may be just the person you need to sort out your US travel.

Let LawTrades help match you with the immigration attorney that you need to ensure that you can travel to the US without any problems.