Visa Waiver Programme

A Visa Waiver Programme was introduced by the United States in 1986. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) administers the programme which currently entails security partnerships with some of the important allies of the United States. Nationals of 38 countries can visit the United States for tourism or business purposes for 90 days without visas. Likewise, the 38 countries listed under the visa waiver programme (as member or participating countries) should allow US citizens to enter their countries for the same period of time without visas for business and tourism purposes.

Visa Waiver Programme Member Countries

The list of countries which are members of the Visa Waiver Programme are listed below:

Australia Liechtenstein
Andorra Luxembourg
Austria Malta
Brunei Netherlands
Belgium Monaco
Chile New Zealand
Denmark Portugal
Czech Republic Norway
Estonia San Marino
France Republic of Korea
Finland Singapore
Germany Slovenia
Iceland United Kingdom
Greece Hungary Spain
Ireland Slovakia
Japan Sweden
Italy Taiwan
Latvia Switzerland

Citizens who come under the purview of the Visa Waiver programme should receive an authorization through an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) at of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection before setting off or the United States. In other words, ESTA determines whether an applicant is eligible under the visa waiver programme to enter the United States without a Visa. Applicants should always check their status on the official website of US Customs and Border Protection (CBP). It is important to note that if an applicant is part of the Visa waiver programme member country, he is not automatically eligible to enter the US sans a visa. He will require an authorization via ESTA and shall be screened at the port of entry.

Passport specifications under ESTA

Travelers under the VWP should submit passports which can be read by machines. A machine-readable passport entails important bio-data of the holder on its data page. Passports (machine-readable) renewed after 2006 should have integrated chips with pertinent information from e-Passport. Passports which were issued/extended (between October 2005 and October 2006) need to have digital photographs.

Eligibility conditions under Visa Waiver Programme

Citizens of the aforementioned member countries can enter the United States for business and tourism for 90 days under specific conditions as listed below:

  • Register and receive authorization via ESTA
  • Possess an e-passport
  • Possess a visa waiver programme passport
  • Plan to stay in the US for a period of 90 days
  • Intend to travel to the US to meet business associates, conferences or contract negotiations
  • Intend to travel to the US for tourism, visit relatives, social service, medical treatment, sporting activities and musical concerts among others
  • Possess a return ticket if entering the US by sea or air. Also, travelers who possess onward tickets and wish to disembark at Canada, Caribbean Islands and Bermuda among others should be residents of the said countries

Ineligible under Visa Waiver Programme

Under the Visa Waiver Programme, citizens with criminal records, communicable diseases and hitherto deported from the U.S are not eligible to avail of the Visa Waiver Programme even if they satisfy other conditions. They can, however, travel to the United States if they apply for a separate visa.

Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015

The Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 entails new requirements in terms of eligibility. All travelers under the Visa Waiver Programme should have an e-passport to enter the United States. Several upgraded security measures are laid down in this Act. For instance, citizens of VWP member nations who visited countries such as Syria, Iraq, Iran and Sudan are not eligible under the Visa Waiver programme. Travelers with dual citizenship (VWP member countries as well as Iraq and Syria) are ineligible to enter United States under the visa waiver programme. There are some exceptions under the Act as listed below:

  • Individuals who visited countries such as Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan to perform official responsibilities as representatives of international and regional organizations and NGOs or on a journalistic assignment in addition to any legal business purposes

Revoking Visa under VWP

In case a traveler receives an email that his ESTA has been revoked, can travel to the United States if he has a non-immigrant valid visa. It is important to note that the aforementioned Act does not in any manner, enforce a ‘ban’ in terms of entering the United States, subject to a valid visa.

Visa extension and change of status under VWP

An individual who enters United States under the Visa Waiver Program cannot extend the duration of his visit/stay and should exit the country on or before the stated date on his admission stamp. An individual who is eligible under the VWP cannot change his status after gaining entry into the United States.

* Disclaimer

News about Visa Waiver Programme

  • Vistara to commence non-stop flights between Delhi and Tokyo

    Vistara Airlines will fly once a week between New Delhi and Tokyo as per India’s travel bubble agreement with Japan. Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner aircraft which comes with a three class configuration will be used by the airline to travel between the two capital cities. Vistara’s cabin crew have been taught to speak fluent Japanese language so that they can extend Indian hospitality to passengers from Japan. Flight tickets from India to Japan can be booked on all channels including on various online ticket booking platforms, and through Vistara’s website and mobile app.

    14 May 2021

  • Laws related to US student visas unchanged

    In an attempt to promote educational exchange between U.S. and India, Ariel Pollock the spokesperson for U.S. Embassy, New Delhi said that the laws related to U.S. student visas are unchanged and encouraged more students to apply for universities in U.S. and achieve their educational degrees.

    30 November 2020

  • Brazil proposes Visa-Waiver for US, Japan, Canada and Australia

    The Brazilian government is considering a visa waiver for citizens of the United States, Japan, Canada and Australia in an effort to increase tourism. The proposal by the Tourism Minister Beltr would extent a 12-month trial period visa-waiver program implemented for tourists from the four countries visiting Brazil for the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games. The President of Brazil Michel Temer hopes to attract more foreign investment and tourists to boost the economy after the country was hit by its worst recession since the 1930s. In 2015, 575,800 US citizens visited Brazil, merely, 10% of the total visitors to the country. The visa exemption would become permanent if the number of visitors increase and the same is reciprocated by the governments of the four countries. The ministry is considering several other countries for this exemption including China. Brazil hopes to attract some of the 100 million Chinese tourists who travel abroad each year, last year only 55,000 Chinese tourists visited the country.

    8 November 2016

  • Home Ministry Denies ˜Visa-Free Entry Program

    The commerce ministry had made a proposal where business visitors and tourists from economic partners and countries like Brazil, Russia,China and South Africa would be allowed to enter india without a visa. The home ministry has denied the proposal citing security as a reason for the rejection. THey also said that as things stand, there is no need for such a program to be instated since the rejection rate of such visas is already very low, just about 1% in fact. They also quoted the numbers and said that this year a total of 1,53,4313 visa applications for India were received, out of which a only about 16,000 were rejected. They also said that with facilities like e-visa and processing times of 48 hours, with an approval rate of 87%, being followed, such initiatives were not required at the moment. They said that visa-free travel in India could constitute a security risk and also said that with the new relaxation in the rules for visas, such a proposal was, once again, rendered unnecessary

    11 July 2016

  • Visa Waiver Programme Supported by US Travel

    The chief executive and president of US Travel, Roger Dow, recently revealed that a cessation of the visa waiver programme had the potential to have ˜disastrous effect on all involved. In 2015, 52% of all international visitors to the United States arrived via the visa waiver programme as it ensured that individuals could travel between the US and EU nations. Discussions regarding the programme's long-term viability presently revolve around the exclusion of five nations “ Croatia, Bulgaria, Poland, Cyprus and Romania. Results of the deliberations are expected to be announced to the public in the first week of July.

    21 June 2016

  • Enhanced Information Sharing Required by Countries Under Visa Waiver Program

    Over 33% of countries under the Visa Waiver Program have not shared terrorism identity data as they should have under the agreements made between the US and its international partners. As a result, a significant lack of counterterrorism communication has been exposed, the Government Accountability Office revealed recently.

    The administration of the Visa Waiver Program has been conducted by the Department of Homeland Security. Under the program, eligible nationals or citizens of 38 designated countries will be allowed to travel to the US for business or tourism for a maximum period of 90 days without the need for a visa.

    12 June 2016

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