Which countries are in the Visa Waiver Program?
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Which countries are in the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program is a long-standing arrangement that allows citizens from certain countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism reasons for a period of up to 90 days, without the need for a visa. Once they have fulfilled specific requirements, one of the benefits of the programme is that travellers can come to the United States at short notice or without the need to apply for a visa in advance.

There are 38 countries currently included in the VWP, meaning citizens of these countries can travel to the USA without the need for a visa. The VWP countries are:

 

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

 

The VWP is also a reciprocal arrangement, meaning that in return, these 38 countries must also agree to US citizens visiting their countries for business or tourism purposes for around a 90-day period of time.

Do visitors from Visa Waiver Program countries still need to obtain an ESTA?

Yes, the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a system that determines whether a visitor to the United States poses a potential security or law enforcement risk. Anyone wishing to enter the United States without a visa must apply for one. When you receive your ESTA, the documentation will inform you if you are also eligible to travel under the VWP.

Can I travel under the VWP if I am planning to come to the US for study or work?

No, the VWP only secures admission to the United States for those who are coming for short-term purposes, such as holidays, visiting relatives or business trips. It is not legal to work or study under the VWP, nor is it legal to try to “reset the clock” on the 90-day period by briefly leaving the US and re-entering. If you wish to work, study or remain in the country for longer than 90 days, a US visa will be required.

Are there any passport requirements to travel under the VWP?

Yes, as of 1 April 2016, travellers from the 38 VWP countries, wishing to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program, must carry a passport with specific security features, known as an “E-passport”. These passports contain digital chips which contain bio-metric information about the passport holder. We recommend that you check your passport meets these requirements in plenty of time to allow you to travel.

What if a visitor from a VWP Country does not have an ESTA?

An ESTA is required for anyone entering the United States without a visa. VWP who have not secured an ESTA, therefore, will be denied entry at ports and airports.

Are there any exceptions to the 90-day rule under the VWP?

In rare circumstances, visitors from the 38 VWP countries may be allowed to remain in the United States after the 90-day period of travel is over, for example if you have a medical emergency or you need to apply for political asylum. In addition, if you are married to a US citizen during your time in the country, you will be permitted to apply for a “green card”, which will give you permanent residency status.

Are there any groups of people who are ineligible to travel under the VWP?

Some potential visitors to the USA will be unable to enter, despite being from a Visa Waiver Program country. This group includes anyone who has been arrested or has a criminal record; anyone who has previously been deported or refused entry to the United States; anyone who has previously overstayed on the VWP; as well as anyone with a communicable disease deemed a public health risk, such as diphtheria, cholera, polio, smallpox, yellow fever or ebola.

Can a traveller who has committed a traffic offence enter the USA under the VWP?

If you have committed a traffic offence in your home country, for which you were not convicted or arrested, you will be able to travel under the VWP. If, however, your offence resulted in a criminal conviction, or you previously committed an offence in the United States, you may be denied entry to the country.