Visa Waiver Program

Travel Guide North America USA Visas Visa Waiver Program

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Introduction

Citizens of the 38 countries within the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), as well as Canadians and Bermudians do not require visas for entry into the United States. Canadians and Bermudians are normally allowed to visit for up to six months. Permanent residents of Canada are not eligible for visa-free entry, unless they are also citizens of a country that participates in the Visa Waiver Program, or one of the separate provisions for a few other countries.

The Visa Waiver Program permits visa-free stays of up to 90 days; it applies to citizens of Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan (must include ID card number), and the United Kingdom (must have right of abode in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man).

Citizens of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau may enter, reside, study, and work in the U.S. indefinitely with only a valid passport.

Citizens of the Bahamas may apply for visa-free entry only at the U.S. Customs pre-clearance facilities in the Bahamas, but a valid police certificate that was issued within the last six months is required for those over the age of 14. Attempting to enter through any other port of entry requires a valid visa.

Citizens of the Turks and Caicos Islands may enter the U.S. without a visa only if they are travelling on a direct flight from there, but a valid police certificate issued within the last six months is required for those over the age of 14. Attempting to enter from any other country requires a valid visa.

Cayman Islands citizens, if they intend to travel directly to the U.S. from there, may obtain a single-entry visa waiver for about $25 prior to departure. A valid police certificate that was issued within the last three months is required for those over the age of 13. Attempting to enter from any other country will require you to have a valid visa.

A criminal record will likely revoke any right to visa-free travel to the U.S. Although there are exceptions e.g. traffic violations, civil infractions (such as littering, noise violations, disorderly conduct), purely political offenses (e.g. non-violent protest in countries where it is not allowed), and offenses committed before the age of 16. Anyone with a criminal record, including Canadians and Bermudians, should seek advice from a U.S. embassy on whether they need to obtain a visa.

The program is open only to travellers who are in the United States for tourism or business purposes. You cannot be coming to the U.S. for formal education, to get a job, or to conduct journalism; if you are, you must get an appropriate visa in advance no matter how short your trip to the U.S. may be.

The 90-day limit is not extendable. A short trip to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean will not allow a fresh 90 days upon return to the U.S. An extended absence to the neighboring countries may reset the limit, particularly if your first trip to the U.S. was short. Take care if transiting through the U.S. on a trip around North America that exceeds 90 days.

Having a criminal record, having been refused entry, or having been denied a U.S. visa will make you ineligible to enter on the VWP; you will have to apply for a U.S. visa instead.

Entry under the VWP by air or sea requires the completion of an online form and a payment of $14, preferably 72 hours before arrival. The form is called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA approval covers multiple trips and is valid for two years (unless your passport expires earlier). This requirement is waived if entering by land.

All passports must be biometric. If your passport is an older one that was issued before biometric passports were available, you will need to obtain a new passport to travel to the U.S. on the VWP.

Entry under the VWP by air or sea requires travel with a signatory carrier. Any commercial scheduled services to the U.S. will be fine, but if you are on a chartered flight or vessel you should check the status of the carrier, as you may require a visa. Flying your own personal aircraft, or sailing your own personal yacht to the U.S. will require you to obtain a tourist visa in advance.

Travellers entering by air or sea should also have a return or onward ticket out of the United States. This requirement is not necessary for residents of Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, or the Caribbean.

Entry under the VWP does not allow you to change your immigration status, and if you are denied entry, the decision can't be appealed and you will immediately be placed on the first flight out.

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Travel to Canada, Mexico or an Adjacent Island While on VWP

Generally speaking, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period.

This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission. The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:

  • Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
  • Plans to depart the United States prior to the expiration date of their period of admission,
  • Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
  • Continues to meet all criteria set forth for the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier (a registered airline).[1]

The term "adjacent islands" is defined in section 101(b)(5) of the Act and for the purposes of the VWP includes Anguilla, Antigua, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Barbuda, Bermuda, Bonaire, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Cuba, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica, Marie-Galante, Martinique, Miquelon, Montserrat, Saba, Saint-Barthelemy, Saint Christopher, Saint Eustatius, Saint Kitts-Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Maarten, Saint Martin, Saint Pierre, Saint Vincent, Grenadines, Trinidad, Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands and other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.

References

  1. 1 Source:CBP.gov (Word document)

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Visa Waiver Program Travel Helpers

This is version 14. Last edited at 13:31 on May 1, 19 by Utrecht. 2 articles link to this page.

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