Visa Waiver Program

Requirements and Benefits of VWP in 2023

Through the Visa Waiver Project (V.W.P.), the federal government of the United States enables citizens of certain nations to visit the country for up to 90 days without a visa for leisure, business, or transit purposes.

It applies to Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, which have a separate scheme with waivers for more countries; it also applies to the fifty U.S. states, Puerto Rico, Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. American Samoa also has a comparable but distinct policy. Let’s look at everything you should be knowing about the Visa Waiver Program.

Visa Waiver Program Countries

What are the V.W.P. Requirements?

All the nations the U.S. government chose for the V.W.P. are recognized as developed countries with large income economies, including incredible Human Development Indexes.

The nationality of the country designated by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, in collaboration with the Department of State, as a program country is a requirement for a visa waiver underneath the V.W.P. Non-nationals of the selected countries who are inhabitants are ineligible for the visa waiver.

 The Immigration and Nationality Act’s Section 217(c) (8 U.S.C. 1187) lists the requirements for classification as program nations. The standards emphasize the need for secure passports, a non-immigrant visa denial rate below 3%, and bilateral visa waivers for Americans, among other things.

What is Electronic Systems for the Travel Authorization (ESTA)?

All incoming travelers planning to use the Visa Waiver Program while flying or sailing into the U.S.A. must submit a travel booking authorization request through Electronic Systems for the Travel Authorization (ESTA) before leaving for the country, preferably at least 72 hours beforehand.

This provision, made public on June 3, 2008, is to increase U.S. security by pre-screening V.W.P. participants’ travelers against terrorist or no-fly databases. It is comparable to the Electronic Travel Authority systems in Australia. Prior to boarding planes with a destination in the United States, registered V.W.P. nationals must get authorization.

Prior to boarding an aircraft with a destination in the United States, participating V.W.P. citizens must get authorization. However, much like with regular visas, this does not ensure admittance, as C.B.P. inspectors at U.S. ports of entry decide final admission eligibility.

What is the cost of ESTA?

A $4 application cost for ESTA is followed by an extra $17 fee, if accepted, $21. Multiple entries into the United States are permitted with an authorized ESTA, which can be utilized for up to two years or if the passenger’s passport lapses, whichever occurs first.

Beginning on October 1, 2022, the U.S. government intends to mandate ESTA for all land entry. When using the V.W.P. With an ESTA, the individual must be flying or sailing on a commercial airline and have a valid returning or continuing ticket with a three-month departure date. Land travel is exempt from the ESTA requirement, but the V.W.P. does not apply if a passenger enters the country by air or water on an authorized carrier.

Birthplace outside of Home country

If an applicant for an ESTA was not born in Hungary, their claim of eligibility based on Hungarian nationality would be immediately rejected. Due to a history of frequent denials, the Hungarian government and media took notice of this limitation, but the U.S. administration kept quiet about it.

Certain elements are unknown, such as those born in a region that was formerly part of Hungary but later acquired by another nation. In any event, this limitation does not apply to those with more than one nationality who register for the V.W.P. using that nationality.

Eligibility for V.W.P. and ESTA

Those wishing to enroll in the Visa Waiver Program shouldn’t have been deemed ineligible for a U.S. visa and must have complied with the requirements of all prior entries to the country.

  • Should not have been found guilty of or taken into custody for a crime involving moral misconduct and over five years before the date of application for a visa, as well as for a single event if the max penalty in the U.S.A. is one year or fever.
  • The Rehabilitation of Offender Act of 1974 in the U.K., which typically eradicates criminal records after a specified amount of time, does not apply. It includes quite precise or restricted drug or (two or more) offenses, regardless of how many years ago, with a total aggregate term of five years’ detention or more. Nevertheless, the person must not use these exclusions as the Visa Waiver Program ESTA question.
  • Must not be legally barred from entering the country for health and national security reasons.
  • Must have the intention of traveling to the U.S. for transit, business, or tourism.
  • They may deny entry if applicants cannot demonstrate their social and economic links to their country of origin.
  • Being detained or found guilty does not automatically exclude someone from applying for a visa under the Visa Waiver Policy. Even though it is not required, several American embassies urge these people to apply for a tourist visa.

For those who don’t qualify for the V.W.P., a U.S. consulate or embassy should issue a visiting visa.

Limitations of the Visa Waiver Program

Tourists covered by the V.W.P. are only permitted to stay in the country for a total of 90 days and cannot ask to extend their stay. Nevertheless, V.W.P. tourists may apply for a status adjustment based on either their marriage to a United States citizen or their asylum request.

U.S. Customs and Border Security personnel evaluate V.W.P. eligibility upon the traveler’s landing. There is no way to challenge or review the entry rejection if someone tries to America through the V.W.P. and is refused by a C.B.P. officer at a port of entry.

Travelers may depart for nearby countries, for example, Canada or the Caribbean, but they will not be given a further 90 days upon returning to the U.S.; rather, they will be allowed to return for the number of days they were given at the first entrance.

If the entire time spent in the U.S., Canada, or nearby islands is less than 90 days, movement through the country is typically allowed. However, the V.W.P. cannot be utilized if, for instance, the visitor is passing through the United States on their route to a stay in Canada since their entire duration in those countries?along with Mexico and nearby islands?will exceed 90 days. The tourist should do so by requesting a transit visa or a B-1/B-2 visa in this situation.

Visa rejection rate

A nation must have had a visa denial rate of below 3% for the preceding year in order to be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program.

This denial rate is based on B visa applications submitted for travel and business. Adjudicators assess applicants due to time restrictions. Interviews with applicants typically run between sixty and ninety seconds and are used to make decisions on B visas. 

Unless they provide a persuasive argument, some groups, such as young individuals who are unmarried and without employment, seldom ever acquire visas. Adjudicators are judged not on the caliber of their judgments but on how quickly they conduct interviews. Decisions regarding B visas are not assessed for validity.

Frequently Asked Questions