Visa Waiver / ESTA
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a US visa. To use the Visa Waiver Program all travelers must apply online for travel authorization using the ESTA prior to traveling.
The State Department travel website features a list of all countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program and more information on the biometric passport requirements.
Certain travelers from VWP countries still need to apply for a visa. As of January 2016, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country),
- Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya or Syria.
In addition, those who have overstayed on previous Visa Waiver visits, travelers who have been previously denied a visa or entry into the U.S., or who might otherwise be ineligible for a visa are not eligible to use the VWP. Visitors that can not use the Visa Waiver Program need to apply for a visa at the US embassy or consulate prior to traveling to the US.
ESTA – Electronic System for Travel Authorization
To use the Visa Waiver Program travelers must apply online for travel authorization using the ESTA Travel authorization is valid for a period of two years (or until the passport expires) and is valid for multiple visits to the US. It is recommended to request travel authorization as early as possible. An ESTA application costs $21, payable by credit card. An ESTA application is relatively straightforward, and it is not necessary to pay a third party to submit an ESTA application for you.
More information on Visa Waiver Program on the site of the US Customs and Border Patrol, including some Frequently Asked Questions.
Tourist or Business visa
When you travel to the US on the Visa Waiver Program you cannot extend your stay beyond the 90 days. You can also not change your status to another visa category. Business travelers and tourists who can not use the Visa Waiver Program, or wish to stay in the U.S. for more than 90 days will need to apply for a B1 (business visa) or B2 (tourist visa) prior to traveling to the US.