The U.S is a great place to visit and do business in, attend conferences or tour the most famous places in. There are several ways that this can be done, and one of them is to get a US Visitor Visa, so either a B1 visa or a B2 visa. Many people wonder though do I need a visa for USA, and some people do not.
If you fulfill the necessary criteria and you are from countries with which the U.S has good relationships with, you will not need a visa for USA. The only document you will need to go into the U.S is the stamp on your passport which states that you are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP).
This article will go through the Visa Waiver Program, what it is, its requirements, necessary documents, and other details.
What is the US Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program was created in 1986 by U.S government. It is a document in the form of a stamp on your passport which allows citizens of 38 countries to enter the U.S without a visa. The program was created to improve security for the people who go into the U.S and also so that U.S citizens can go to the other 38 countries freely. It brings mutual benefits and most importantly, makes traveling a lot safer.
The Visa Waiver Program allows people to go to the U.S only for a limited amount of time, so up to 90 days, and only for certain purposes. These purposes must be the same as those for the B1 visa or the B2 visa.
Visa Waiver Countries
The 38 Visa Waiver Countries are the following:
|Czech Republic||Liechtenstein||South Korea|
Note: This is the complete list of Visa Waiver Countries as of November 21, 2018.
If you are from one of these countries, you can apply only for the Visa Waiver and not for a visa.
Benefits and Limitations of Travelling Under the VWP
The benefits of the Visa Waiver Program are many. You will not be required to apply for a visa, which takes time, effort, and a lot of documents. With minimal effort on a computer, you can get approved for the VWP and be on your way to making your travel arrangements for the U.S. You will avoid the long processing times too, so if you are travelling for business and need to be in the U.S as soon as possible, you can do so with the VWP.
Additionally, if you enter the U.S with a VWP, you can also visit Canada, Mexico and other nearby islands for the time that your VWP is valid. So if you reenter the U.S during the timeframe that the VWP is valid, you will not have any problems. You are not allowed to do so with other visas.
What are the US Visa Waiver requirements?
In order to qualify for the US Visa Waiver Program, you must fulfill the following criteria:
- Be a citizen of the 38 allowed countries
- Have a visa waiver ESTA approval
- Have an e-passport
- Prove that you will return to your home country after your VWP stamp expires
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an electronic program that the U.S has developed to make applying for the Visa Waiver much faster. The only step you need to take is go to its website and enter your personal information and you will get a response on whether you qualify for the Visa Waiver or not
The e-passport is a document which you need in order to apply for the ESTA and the VWP. The e-passport is different from regular passports in two ways:
- It is Machine Readable, which means that in the page with your personal information, there are also various number at the bottom (See Picture 1 below)
- It has chip and it is distinguished by a symbol in the front cover (See Picture 2 below)
IMPORTANT: Changes to the Visa Waiver Program in 2016In 2016, the U.S started implementing a change in the Visa Waiver Program under the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015”. Since then, certain travelers would no longer be eligible to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The following groups of people are affected by that change:
- Nationals of visa waiver countries who have been in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 01, 2011. It should be noted that there are some exceptions for diplomats and military personnel.
- Nationals of visa waiver countries who also hold a nationality of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
How Does a Country Join the Visa Waiver Program?To become part of the Visa Waiver Program, a country must meet these conditions:
- Issue e-passports.
- Have enhanced law enforcement and security data sharing with the U.S.
- Report stolen and lost passports.
- Refuse less than 3% of B visas.
- Have good counterterrorism, border control, law enforcement, and other security standards.