Visa Waiver Program
Overview - Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Requirements
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less, when they meet all requirements. Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel. If you are eligible to travel on the VWP, but prefer to have a visa in your passport, you may still apply for a visitor (B) visa.
Travel Purpose Must be Permitted on a Visitor (B) Visa:
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, for stays of 90 days or less for business, tourism, visiting or pleasure. Transiting or traveling through the United States to Canada or Mexico is generally permitted for VWP travelers. The following are examples of activities permitted while in the United States on the VWP.
- 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 U.S. with the exception of expenses incidental to your stay)
- negotiate a contract
Learn more about Business Travel.
Tourism or Visiting:
- 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)
Travel Purposes Not Permitted on Visa Waiver Program – Examples:
These are some examples of activities not permitted on VWP and require visas for travel to the United States:
- study, for credit
- work as foreign press, radio, film, journalists, or other information media
- permanent residence in the United States
You must be a citizen or national of VWP-participant country. The following 37 countries are Visa Waiver Program participants:
Currently, 37 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:
|Greece||the Netherlands||Taiwan (see note below)|
With respect to all references to “country” or “countries” on this page, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the Visa Waiver Program authorizing legislation, Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1187, are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.
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 the Department of Homeland Security, Customs and Border Protection's (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business. Visit the ESTA webpage on the CBP website for more detailed information, to apply for ESTA, and pay the fee.
If arriving by air or sea, you must be arriving on an approved air or sea carrier. You must also have a round trip ticket indicating return passage to a country outside the United States.
- If you have previously been denied (refused) a visa, or have been found ineligible for a U.S. visa, you do not meet VWP requirements and therefore, cannot travel on the VWP.
- If you have had a U.S. visa before or previously traveled to the United States under VWP or another status, you must have complied with the conditions of previous admissions to the United States.
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.
In addition, your passport must meet the following requirements for VWP travel:
|Citizens of:||Must have a machine-readable passport, and also:|
|the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic||with an integrated chip containing information from the passport data page = e-Passport|
|Taiwain||with an integrated chip containing information from the passport data page = e-Passport, and a national ID number|
Must have a machine-readable passport, and:
If the passport was issued, renewed, or extended:
all other VWP countries
with an integrated chip containing information from the passport data page =e-Passport
on or after 10/26/06.
with a digital photograph printed on the data page or an integrated chip with information from the data page = e-Passport
between 10/26/05 and 10/25/06.
with no further requirements
The e-Passport and machine-readable passport requirements are in compliance with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
Machine-Readable Passport – A machine-readable passport has certain biographical data entered on the data page, which is scanned at the port of entry, most often an airport, when you seek to enter the United States. Below is an example of a biographical data page in a machine-readable passport:
Travelers should contact their country's passport issuing agency or authority if they have questions whether their passport is machine-readable.
e-Passport - Data related to an individual's identity is incorporated in an integrated electronic chip into the passport, referred to as an e-Passport. The data on the chip includes the two lines of machine-readable printed data and facial recognition data. The chip can be scanned to match the identity of the traveler to the passport. You can readily identify an e-Passport, because it has a unique international symbol on the cover. Review more about e-Passports on the Department of Homeland Security website. See the example below:
If you use an emergency or temporary passport to enter the United States on the VWP, the passport must be an electronic passport, or e-Passport. This includes VWP travelers who are transiting the United States.
- Travelers who are eligible for the VWP may apply for a visitor (B) visa, if they prefer to do so.
- If you do not meet all of the VWP requirements, then you must apply for a visa. As examples, you need a visa when the traveler:
- Wants to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days, or envisions that they may wish to change their status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the United States;
- Wants to work or study in the United States, travel as a working foreign media representative, come to the United States for other purposes not allowed on a visitor visa, or intends to immigrate to the United States;
- Is a national of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, or the Slovak Republic AND DOES NOT HAVE an electronic passport with an integrated chip;
- Is a national of one of the VWP countries not listed above AND DOES NOThave a machine-readable passport (MRP)(depending on the date the MRP was issued, renewed, or extended, it may also need to contain a digital photograph or an integrated electronic chip);
- Intends to travel by private aircraft or other non-VWP approved air or sea carriers to the United States. Click here to see the approved carriers list;
- Has a criminal record or other condition making them ineligible for a visa (seeClasses of Aliens Ineligible for Visas).
- Has been refused admission to the United States before, or did not comply with the conditions of previous VWP admissions (90 days or less stay for tourism or business, etc.).
If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may take a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or a nearby island and generally be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the remainder of the original 90 days granted upon your initial arrival in the United States. Therefore, the length of time of your total stay, including the short trip, must be 90 days or less. See the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.
Citizens of VWP countries who reside in Mexico, Canada, or a nearby island are generally exempted from the requirement to show onward travel to another country * when entering the United States. Learn more at the CBP website.
A country must meet various requirements to be considered for designation in the Visa Waiver Program. Requirements include, but are not limited to:
- enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States;
- issuing e-Passports;
- having a visitor (B) visa refusal rate of less than three percent;
- timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports; and
- maintenance of high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.
Designation as a VWP country is at the discretion of the U.S. government. Meeting the objective requirements of the VWP does not guarantee a country will receive VWP designation.
Detailed information about admissions and entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program can be found on the DHS Customs Border Protection website at Visa Waiver Program and Admission to the United States. Travelers should be aware that by requesting admission under the Visa Waiver Program, they are generally waiving their right to review or appeal a CBP officer’s decision as to their application for admission at the port of entry. Likewise, if the traveler is later found to have violated the conditions of admission under the Visa Waiver Program, they do not have the right to contest a removal order (See the CBP website for additional details.)
There is a small land border fee for VWP travelers arriving at land ports of entry. See the CBP website for additional details.
Canada, Mexico and Bermuda are not participants in the Visa Waiver Program. The Immigration and Nationality Act includes other provisions for visa-free travel for nationals of Canada and Bermuda under certain circumstances. See Citizens of Canada and Bermuda. Since they are not part of the Visa Waiver Program, VWP requirements for machine-readable or biometric passports do not apply to nationals of Canada, Mexico or Bermuda. Also, it should be noted that some nationals of Canada and Bermuda traveling to the United States require nonimmigrant visas.
Additional information on the Visa Waiver Program is available from the Department of Homeland Security Customs and Border Protection website.