What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)? - ESTAForm.org

What is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

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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 complete list of countries, click here) to travel to the US under certain conditions without the need to obtain a visa.
The program applies to the United States mainland and the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands in the Caribbean, with limited application to other US territories. The VWP also allows US 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 US, upon arrival at US ports of entry, and during any subsequent air travel within the US.

Who is Eligible to Apply for the Visa Waiver Program?

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 that has been issued to you by a VWP country
  • Have the authorization 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.

The Implication of the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 on the Visa Waiver Program

After the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 was signed, some travelers were no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. These categories of travelers are:
  • Any National of the Visa Waiver Program who have traveled to or was present in Iran, Iraq, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011. The only exceptions are those who travel for military or diplomatic purposes in the service of a Visa Waiver Program country.
  • Any nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries who are also holding nationality or citizenship of any of these countries: Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, or Syria. Any traveller in these categories is no longer eligible to travel under the VWP. As a result, they must obtain a valid visa before they can be allowed entry into the United States because they are no longer. They can apply for a visa through the normal application process at a US Consulate or Embassy.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Visa Waiver Program

Can I Apply for a Visa Instead of Using the Visa Waiver Program?

Yes. Even if you are eligible for the VWP, you can choose to apply for a visitor (B) visa if you prefer to go through that route. There are several reasons why you may choose to apply for a visa even when you are eligible for a VWP. One reason could be that you intend to stay longer than 90 days in the US. Also, if you plan to travel via a private aircraft or other non-approved VWP means, you will need to apply for a visa. Additionally

Can I extend my stay with the VWP?

No. If you enter the US through the VWP, you cannot extend your stay beyond the initial admission period. To prevent any consequences such as future denial of your application, you must depart the US on or before the departure date on your admission stamp.

What makes a country qualified for the Visa Waiver Program?

Before a country can join the VWP, it must meet specific requirements. Some of these requirements are:
  • Have a visitor (B) visa refusal rate of less than three percent.
  • Offer a reciprocal privilege to US citizens.
  • Issue e-passports (a machine-readable and electronic passport that has a biometric identifier).
  • Enhanced security-related data and law enforcement data sharing with the US.
  • Timely reporting of issues lost and stolen passports.
  • Maintenance of law enforcement, high counterterrorism, document security, and border control standards.

Written by Abisola Fikayomi

Abisola is an accomplished writer interested in US Travel, immigration, passports and visas. She’s passionate about exploring new places and cultures and willing to share her experiences, expertize and findings with others. That is her primary drive for specialising in this industry.


Visa waiver means that there is no requirement for a visa for citizens of certain countries. The visa waiver program was established to simplify traveling to the US for travelers from low-risk countries, when they are traveling for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes. Instead of applying for a visa, which takes weeks or months, an ESTA can be used which usually takes less than a day to get processed.
When an ESTA is issued under the visa waiver program, it will be valid for two years or until the passport it is linked to expires (whichever date is the soonest). In the two years of validity, the ESTA can be used for multiple visits to the US.
No, the visa waiver program does not provide authorization to work in the US. The ESTA is only applicable to visits to the US that are for tourism, business, medical or transit purposes. If you are intending on working in the US, you would require a work visa.
The restrictions for traveling to the US with an ESTA under the VWP are that you must not stay in the US for a period longer than 90 days. If your ESTA or passport expires, you will need to apply for a new ESTA, you cannot extend the length of an existing ESTA.
The visa waiver program can be used over and over again, as many times as is required. As long as you do not overstay the 90 day limit. You can travel to the US using the same ESTA as long as it is valid and when it runs out, you can apply for a new one as many times as you want to travel to the US.
You should not overstay the 90 days allowed under the visa waiver, as this can affect any future applications for visiting the US with an ESTA or visa. Whether you are prosecuted will depend on how long you overstay and whether there are any mitigating factors that have resulted in overstaying that were out of your control, such as an illness or injury.
Yes, it is possible to get married in the US if you are visiting under the visa waiver program. You would need to provide the required ID to apply for a marriage license in the US and the marriage may not be recognized in your home country.
US entry waivers are issued for periods of between six months to five years, it will depend on how long your specific waiver has been issued for. Obtaining a US entry waiver is usually a complex legal process and it is not easy to get one.
The main requirements for VWP are that you are a citizen of one of the VWP countries listed and also your purpose for travel must be business, tourism, medical or transit and the visit is for less than 90 days. You must also have a valid, biometric passport that your ESTA will be digitally linked to.
A US entry waiver is required for Canadian citizens with a criminal record to enter the US, otherwise travel will not be allowed. You would need to complete an I-192 form and you need to supply fingerprints. If you require a visa waiver and do not have criminal convictions, you can use a service such as estaform.org to speed up the application.
To qualify for the US visa waiver you must be a citizen of one the listed VWP countries. Your purpose for travel to the US must be for business, tourism, transit or medical and you may only visit for a period of up to 90 days. You require a valid biometric passport in order to process an ESTA.
You can apply for a US visa waiver by using the online form at estaform.org. You will need to complete all of the required information and pay an application fee using an electronic payment card. You will then receive a response to your email address that you provide in the application.

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