Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program by the U.S. Government that allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism, business, or while in transit for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa. The program applies to all 50 U.S. states as well as the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, the traveler seeking to enter the U.S. must be a citizen of a country that has been approved by the U.S. Homeland Security. All of the countries selected by the U.S. government to be in the program are high-income economies with a very high Human Development Index and most of them are generally regarded as developed countries. Currently, there are 38 countries that are eligible for visa-free entry into the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, with the country of Chile being the most recently added. The full list of participating countries can be found at http://www.travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/visa-waiver-program.html.
Travelers from eligible countries must meet all of the following requirements. First, all travelers must have individual machine-readable passports. Second, in order to travel without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program, 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 and U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business. Third, the purpose of the visit must be for business or tourism. Business purposes include consulting with business associates, attending conventions or conferences, and negotiating a contract, while tourism purposes include vacationing, visiting family or friends, and participation in social events. It is important to be noted that on the Visa Waiver Program certain travel purposes are not permitted such as study for school credit, employment purposes, or permanent residence in the U.S. Lastly, if traveling by sea or air, all travelers must be arriving on an approved carrier, with a round trip ticket indicating return passage to a country outside the U.S.
Once in the U.S. a traveler under the Visa Waiver Program cannot request an extension of the original 90-day limit. However, travelers can adjust their status if they either get married to a U.S. citizen or apply for asylum.
If you are living in one of the participating countries and are interested in the Visa Waiver Program, or have any general questions, contact Buda Law Group today for consultation. Call us now and our experienced team can help you reach your goals.
John B. Buda, Esq.www.budalawgroup.net office: 310-452-1872 [email protected] 3301 Ocean Park Blvd. Suite 205 Santa Monica, CA 90405