What Is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program is a program that the United States participates in with other foreign countries that allows nationals from certain countries or territories to enter the US without a visa for up to 90 days. Nationals are permitted to enter the United States for tourism or business. This program for travel applies to all 50 states in the United States, as well as Guam, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, the US Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands. American Samoa does not participate in the Visa Waiver Program but instead has its own unique program under similar regulations.
What Documents Are Required?
All travelers arriving in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must have a biometric passport (exceptions for children traveling with parents are made.) Further, participants must apply for the VWP online through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization program. If a person has recently traveled to a non-approved country or owns dual citizenship to a non-approved country, they may be denied entry to the United States. Non-approved countries include North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, and Somalia, among others. This restriction is waived for journalists and diplomats arriving in the United States, however.
How Are Countries Made Eligible for the Program?
Several worldwide countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program with the United States. In general, these countries have a high-income economy, are considered a developed country, and have a high Human-Development Index rating. Most Western European countries are included in the program, including Germany, Greece, France, and the United Kingdom. Other countries, such as Chile, New Zealand, Australia, and Iceland, are also included. In total, the United States allows nationals from 40 different nations and territories to enter the United States without a Visa for a minimum of 90 days and a maximum of six months.
Are There Restrictions?
Restrictions surrounding a person's intention to enter the company with the Visa Waiver Program exist for specific situations. A person is not allowed to extend their stay beyond 90 days. Further, a person can be denied entry upon arrival in the country by an officer, with no path for appeal. A person also has limitations on what business they can conduct within the United States. While attending business meetings, training and conferences are generally allowed, a person is prevented from partaking in activities that create "gainful employment." However, categorizing activity into this realm is subject at best with hazy qualifications and definitions. A person may also be denied entry if they have been of a crime in their own country.