What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) which allows citizens of specific countries (to see the full list of countries, click here) to travel to the U.S. under certain conditions without the need to obtain a visa.
The program applies to the United States mainland as well as the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, with limited application to other U.S. territories. The VWP also allows U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to the 38 countries for a similar length of time for business or pleasure purposes without the need for a visa.
Since it was created in 1986, the VWP has grown into a robust security partnership for the USA and its close allies. The VWP uses a risk-based, multi-layered approach to detect and prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other listed persons from travelling to the United States.
National risk assessments are conducted before a country is allowed to become part of the VWP. In addition, individual VWP travellers must be vetted before they depart for the U.S., upon arrival at U.S. ports of entry, and during any subsequent air travel within the U.S.
As well as improving travel security, the VWP promotes economic vibrance and growth in the USA and in countries accepted into the VWP, and helps to make travel easier.
You are eligible to apply for admission under the VWP if you:
  • Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less for business, pleasure or transit
  • Have a valid passport which has been issued to you by a VWP country
  • Have authorisation to travel under ESTA
  • Arrive via a VWP signatory carrier
  • Have a return or onward ticket
  • Are a citizen or national of one of the VWP countries.
  • Establish to the satisfaction of the inspecting United States Customs and Border Protection officer that you are entitled to be admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and that you are not inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act.
  • Waive any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Reaffirm, through the submission of biometric identifiers (including fingerprints and photographs) during processing upon arrival in the United States, your waiver of any rights to review or appeal of the admissibility determination of the United States Customs and Border Protection officer, or contest, other than on the basis of an application for asylum, any removal action arising from an application for admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • Obtain an Authorization Approved determination following a travel authorization application.
  • Do not pose a threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the United States.
  • Have complied with all conditions of any previous admission under the Visa Waiver Program.
Be aware that travel may not terminate in contiguous territory or adjacent islands unless the traveler is a resident of one of those areas.

Related FAQs


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If you are in the US and your ESTA expires then it is not an issue, as your ESTA must only be valid when you are entering the border of the US. This is when you will get checked by the border control authorities, so when you are returning to the UK or wherever else, there is no requirement to have a valid ESTA.

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