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Who qualifies for the Visa Waiver Program?

On Behalf of | Apr 23, 2024 | Immigration

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows the citizens of certain countries to come to the U.S. for specific reasons without obtaining a visa. However, not all travelers from these countries automatically qualify for the program.

Here’s a breakdown of who qualifies for the Visa Waiver Program.

Citizenship eligibility

To qualify for the VWP, individuals must be citizens of one of the participating countries. Forty-one countries, including those from Europe, Asia, and Oceania, participate in the VWP; however, there are specific requirements for those in Taiwan and the United Kingdom.

ESTA approval

Even if you hold citizenship from a VWP country, you must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before traveling to the United States. This online system tells visitors if they are eligible to come to the United States via the VWP. Before their trip, travelers must complete an online application providing biographical and eligibility information.

The intended purpose of the visit

The VWP is intended for individuals traveling to the United States for tourism, business or while in transit. Those seeking to study, work or immigrate to the U.S. are not eligible for the program and must obtain the appropriate visa.

Duration of stay

Travelers under the VWP can stay in the United States for up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. This duration cannot be extended; individuals must leave the country before the 90-day period expires.

Security and background checks

Travelers applying for ESTA authorization undergo these checks to ensure they are not a security risk to the United States.

Eligibility for the Visa Waiver Program depends on citizenship, ESTA approval, the purpose and duration of the visit and passing security checks.