Visa Waiver Program
For more information, visit the US Department of State website.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business [visitor (B) visa purposes] for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the State Department to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are required to apply for authorization though the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), are screened at their port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security's US-VISIT program.
Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
Currently, 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program, as shown below:
How does a country qualify to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various security and other requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. VWP members are also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.
In addition, designation as a VWP country is at the discretion of the USG. Meeting the objective requirements of the VWP does not guarantee a successful candidacy for VWP membership.
Eligibility for the Visa Waiver:
Citizens of the 35 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program may use VWP if:
- They have received an authorization to travel under the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
- They present the appropriate type of passport valid for six months past their expected stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements (pdf) provide exemptions). This is a requirement in addition to other passport requirements for all categories of passports -- regular, diplomatic, and official - when the traveler is seeking to enter the United States for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days
- The purpose of their stay in the United States is 90 days or less for tourism or business (Visitor (B) visa) purpose of travel. (If in doubt, travelers should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate to verify that what they plan to do is considered tourism or business.) Transit through the United States is generally permitted. Important Notice: Foreign media representatives planning to engage in that vocation in the United States are not eligible for VWP travel, as the purpose of their stay does not qualify as “business." These professionals must obtain a nonimmigrant media visa. Note also that travelers planning to work or study cannot travel on VWP, and they must obtain the appropriate visa to travel to the United States - Learn More.
- They are arriving by air or sea, traveling on an approved carrier (See the approved carriers list_pdf), and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination.
- They can demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the United States and demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves while in the United States. Learn more on the CBP website.
VWP travelers who have been admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the balance of their original admission period. See the Department of Homeland Security's Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website for additional details. VWP nationals resident in Mexico, Canada or adjacent islands are generally exempt from requirements to show onward travel to other foreign destinations.