Travel Without a Visa
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. 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 required to apply for authorization though the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), are screened at their port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.
Countries Currently Enrolled in the VWP
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom.
Visa Waiver Program Expansion
As of November 17, 2008, nationals of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Republic of Korea and the Slovak Republic; and as of December 30, 2008, nationals of Malta can travel without a visa for tourist and business travel of 90 days or less provided they meet the following requirements:
- Possess a passport with an integrated chip (e-passport)
- Register on-line through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
- Meet the standard VWP conditions (Please see below)
Review the Visa Waiver Program quick reference handout (PDF 211 KB), as well as this webpage to learn more about VWP travel. For more details about the Visa Waiver Program Expansion, please see the here.
For citizens of Canada, Mexico, and British Overseas Territories of Bermuda, please see here.
To Enter The U.S. On The Visa Waiver Program, Travelers Must Be:
- A citizen of one of the countries listed above, and in possession of a VWP-compliant passport. (Details)
- Possessing the ESTA authorization
- Travelling for business, pleasure, or transit
- Staying in the U.S. for 90 days or less
And If Entering The U.S. By Air Or Sea Must Be:
- Holding a return or onward ticket. If travelling on an electronic ticket, a copy of the itinerary must be carried for presentation to the immigration inspector. Note: Travellers with onward tickets terminating in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas
- Entering the United States aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program (PDF 230 KB). This includes aircraft of a U.S. corporation that has entered into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to carry passengers under the Visa Waiver Program. Note: Other private or official aircraft or vessels do not meet this requirement
- In possession of a completed form I-94W, obtainable from airline and shipping companies
If Entering The U.S. By Land From Canada Or Mexico:
The VWP permits arrivals from Mexico and Canada at land border ports-of-entry (POEs). The documentary requirements are the same, except there is no requirement for round-trip tickets and signatory carriers, as there are no carriers involved. You must satisfy the inspecting officer that you have funds to support yourself during your stay and to depart the U.S.
If you enter at a land POE you must complete and sign the Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form, usually issued in the secondary inspection station and pay the land border fee as prescribed in 8 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) § 103.7(b)(1). You must also be admissible to the United States. For reasons that would make you inadmissible, please see the Immigration and Nationality Act at INA § 212(a).
Effective January 12, 2009, all nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure will require an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP. Please see here (PDF 230 KB) for details.
If you have questions or concerns about ESTA, you may contact the CBP Customer Service Center at +1-703-526-4200. It is open weekends from 8:30 to 5:00 EST. You may also find information by accessing https://help.cbp.gov, clicking on the “Find an Answer, Ask a Question” section, and typing in “ESTA” as the keyword.
All VWP travelers, regardless of age or type of passport used, must present a machine-readable passport. In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements apply:
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended on or after 10/26/06 – requires integrated chip with information from the data page (e-passport).
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended between 10/26/05 and 10/25/06 – requires digital photograph printed on the data page.
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended before 10/26/05 – no further requirements. New VWP countries: Nationals of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic require passports with an integrated chip containing the information from the data page (e-passport).
Note:Effective July 1, 2009, VWP countries' emergency and temporary passports will be subject to the electronic passport (e-passport) requirement. Bearers of non-electronic emergency or temporary passports issued after October 26, 2006 by VWP countries will be required to apply for U.S. visas or apply for a waiver at the port of entry. (Note: All passports issued by the eight VWP countries designated in 2008: Malta, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Republic of Korea and the Slovak Republic , including those issued before October 26, 2006, must be e-passports to be used for VWP travel.)
Passport Validity: Visitors traveling to the U.S. are required to be in possession of passports that are valid for six months beyond the period of their intended stay in the U.S. Citizens of the countries listed here (PDF 57 KB) are exempt the six-month rule and need only have a passport valid for their intended period of stay. If you are traveling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program, your passport needs to be valid for at least 90 days. If your passport is not valid for 90 days, you will be admitted into the U.S. until the date on which the passport expires.
If you are a traveler from a VWP country and your passport does not meet these requirements, you may want to consider obtaining a new VWP-compliant passport from the passport issuing authority in your country of citizenship. Otherwise you cannot travel under VWP and you must obtain a visa in your valid passport for entry into the U.S.
Who is Not Eligible to Use VWP:
Some travellers may not be eligible to enter the U.S. visa free under the VWP. These include people who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records (even if subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other act of clemency), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the U.S., or have previously overstayed on the visa waiver program. Such travellers must apply for a visa. If they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the U.S.
Note: Travellers with minor traffic offenses which did not result in an arrest and/or conviction for the offense may travel visa free, provided they are otherwise qualified. If the traffic offense occurred while you were in the U.S., and you have an outstanding fine against you or your did not attend your court hearing, it is possible there may be a warrant out for your arrest, and you will experience problems when applying for admission into the U.S. Therefore you should resolve the issue before travelling by contacting the court where you were to appear. If you do not know the address of the court then information is available from the Internet at: www.refdesk.com.
Refused an ESTA: Travellers who have been refused an ESTA cannot travel under the VWP. Please apply for a visa before departure. For information on applying for a visa, please see here.
Important reminder: Visa-free travel does not include those who plan to study, work or remain in the U.S. for longer than 90 days or envisions that they may wish to change their status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the U.S. Such travellers need visas. If an immigration officer believes that a visa-free traveller is going to study, work or stay longer than 90 days, the officer will refuse to admit the traveller.
Transit Under the Visa Waiver Program:
Travelers who qualify for visa free travel under the Visa Waiver Program are eligible to transit the U.S. Application for entry is made on the arrival/departure form I-94W provided by the airline or shipping company. If transiting the U.S. to a destination in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, the traveller may re-enter the U.S. on the return journey using any mode of transport, as long as the total visit, including both periods of time spent in transit and in Canada, Mexico or the adjacent islands, does not exceed 90 days. If transiting to a destination outside of Canada, Mexico, or the adjacent islands, the return journey must be on a participating carrier, but need not be within 90 days, as the traveler will be required to make a new application for admission and therefore, required to complete a new arrival/departure form, I-94W. Travelers transiting the U.S. to take up residence in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal permanent residents of these areas.
Guam Visa Waiver Program(GVWP):
In addition to the Visa Waiver Program, there is a separate visa waiver program for Guam. The following countries are eligible for the Guam Visa Waiver Program: Australia, Brunei, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Nauru, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Republic of Korea, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Taiwan (Residents who begin travel in Taiwan and fly to Guam without an intermediate layover or stop en route), United Kingdom (including British National Overseas), Vanuatu, and Western Samoa.
The Guam Visa Waiver Program allows the traveler to enter Guam visa free for 15 days or fewer for business or pleasure. To utilize the program, you must:
- Arrive on a GVWP signatory carrier
- Be traveling only to Guam (no onward flights to other U.S. destinations is permitted)
- Have a nonrefundable, and nontransferable round-trip ticket, departure date not exceeding 15 days from the date of admission
- Have a completed and signed form I-736 and Form I-94
Persons who are travelling to Guam and utilitizing the GVWP do not need to have a machine-readable or e-passport with an integrated chip. They also do not need to get an ESTA.
Travelers who plan to spend more than 15 days in Guam or plan to travel on to another U.S. destination can utilize the regular Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for their trip to Guam. Using the regular VWP requires an ESTA, a machine-readable passport, and under some circumstances an e-passport with an integrated chip.
Travelers going to any U.S. destination (including Guam) who plan to work or study in the U.S. or have certain medical problems, criminal convictions, prior denial of entry into the U.S., etc. will continue to need visas.
For further information on Guam Visa Waiver Program, please see here.
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