Visa Waiver Program

The Complexities and Confusion of the United States’ Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a quick and easy way to enter the United States for reasons of business or pleasure. If you are a citizen of a participating VWP Country, you can enter the United States for 90 days without enduring the long process of obtaining a travel visa.

Unlike the months it may take for a visa, the VWP process takes a very limited amount of time. On average it takes around 20 minutes to fill out the application form. After the online form is submitted the response, many times, is instantaneous, but it is still recommended to submit the form as soon as travel plans are in the making. The ESTA application is valid for 2 years or until your passport expires, whichever is earlier.

Many people find the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) confusing, but we are here to make it clearer with these important points:

  • To apply for the VWP you must possess a valid and machine-readable passport from a VWP eligible country. (digital photograph or integrated chip with information the data page). The passport must be valid for at least six months beyond the planned date of departure.
  • Must apply for the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) on a device with internet access.

– while personal use is simplest you may apply through a third party such as travel agent or relative, though you are still legally responsible for the answers submitted on your behalf.

  – The form must be filled out in U.S. English (there are no exceptions)

  • To be eligible for the VWP you must not have a communicable disease (contact USCIS for a list of communicable diseases), past convictions of a crime involving moral turpitude, or prior visa refusal

      – if unsure of any of these points you should first apply for a visa.

  • If your ESTA application is denied you must apply for a visa

     – contact the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) office through email if you think an error has been made of if you believe you may have answered a question incorrectly

  • The Visa Waiver only lasts for 90 days

      – the Visa Waiver cannot be extended past 90 days and a person must leave the United States if you want to obtain a visa.

      – exceptions in extreme circumstances. In emergency situations like hospitalization, flight cancellation, etc. You may notify the USCIS local director whom may, at their discretion, grant you an extended period not exceeding 30 days.

  • Only for Business or Pleasure

    – the VWP cannot be used for means of getting married, if the travel officers suspects marriage as intent they will deny your entry and make you ineligible for further travel under the VWP

  – if you travel to the U.S. with the pure intent of business or pleasure but find your life partner and decide to stay in the United States you can apply for the Legal Permanent Residency.

  • The VWP cannot be switch to another Visa type while in the United States.

    – this rule is strictly enforced, but there are exceptions including: U visa, refugee, and asylum.

Fees

All fees will be charged to your credit card with the first being charge as a processing fee through the ESTA website and the second addition fee will be charged if the application is approved.

  • Processing fee: $4.00
  • Authorization charge: $10.00

Information Compiled From:

http://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/frequently-asked-questions-about-visa-waiver-program-vwp-and-electronic-system-travel

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1024/~/how-to-extend-my-visa-waiver-program-stay-in-the-u.s.-if-there-is-an-emergency

https://help.cbp.gov/app/answers/detail/a_id/1074/~/esta-application-denied

https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/

https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html