What is the Visa Waiver Program?
For people living and traveling in the U.S. and U.S. citizens living abroad, there are several ways to travel to the States. You can purchase a round-trip ticket from the airline or travel agency, or you can obtain a visa waiver from the U.S. Department of State.
Knowing More About the Visa Waiver Program
When you travel abroad, you’re required to have a valid passport to enter any country. Some countries will give you a visa on arrival, which is where the Visa Waiver Program comes in. If you’re a citizen of a country holding one of the following passports: United Kingdom, United States, Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, or Switzerland, you are eligible to enter a country without a visa for a limited time.
According to the U.S. State Department, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a travel program for visitors from 38 countries who have a low risk of terrorism and are otherwise eligible for a non-immigrant visa. The program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security and allows citizens of those countries to travel to the U.S. for up to 3 months or 90 days without a visa. While there are some restrictions, which we will delve into more in a moment, you can enroll in the VWP and visit the United States without a visa as long as you meet the requirement and are otherwise eligible.
This program allows you to travel to the U.S. for a short time without a visa and is often very affordable. However, you will need to undergo a background check, a medical exam, and a police check and be fingerprinted for the background check. If you’re over 16 and want your parents or spouse to accompany you, they will also need to go through the same process. Citizens of participating countries are allowed to enter the U.S. for 90 days and are not required to apply for an exit visa if they leave the U.S. Those who do not meet the requirements must agree to a waiver that includes applying for a visa.
What are the Requirements for this Program?
Visa Waiver Program is a visa program that allows qualifying nationals to visit the U.S. for up to 3 months or 90 days for business or pleasure. The program requires that a visitor have a passport that does not expire within the next 24 months, a round trip ticket to the United States, and proof of sufficient financial support, such as a letter of invitation or employment contract. Here are the other requirements to qualify under this program:
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization or ESTA – To be allowed to enter the country under the Visa Waiver Program, the traveler must complete an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before their arrival. It is one of the Visa Waiver Program requirements. In general, the ESTA is a pre-screening tool used by the U.S. government to allow those who are traveling to the U.S. to board a flight with the expectation that they will not be refused entry or allowed to enter the country.
- Dual nationality or prior travel to certain countries – Dual nationals and people who have traveled to certain countries are not eligible to travel to America under the Visa Waiver Program. These travelers must have fulfilled the previous admissions’ conditions and been found eligible for an American visa. They must never have been convicted of or arrested for an offense or crime involving moral turpitude.
- Other requirements – To enter the U.S. as a tourist, you must overcome many requirements. First, you must meet certain requirements of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows you to enter the U.S. without a visa. Since the program is only available to a limited number of countries, it is quite competitive. Also, as above, you must not have been convicted of or been arrested for a crime involving moral turpitude. You must never have been conditionally admitted to the U.S. or been an applicant for (or received an immigrant visa or any other visa or admission to the U.S.) due to activities that would have been considered a crime under the laws of the United States or any State or political subdivision thereof.
Visa Waiver Programs (VWP) is a good thing. If you travel outside the U.S., you will be able to bypass most of the bureaucratic red tape that tends to be involved with travel. This is particularly useful for business travel since you will be able to travel without a visa and without going through all the hassles of a passport.