Citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) can travel to the USA visa-free as tourists or for one of the other permitted purposes under the programme; however, an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) must be obtained prior to travel to the USA.
Visa Waiver Program Countries
Nationals of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program*, provided that a person is not also a national of Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan :
|Czech Republic||Liechtenstein||South Korea|
ESTA Required Before Travel
In order to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program, a person must have successfully secured Electronic System for Travel Authorization and this must be valid (current). The ESTA questionnaire should only be filled out and submitted through the official United States government website administered by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, available at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html. Beware of other sites that mimic the official ESTA website.
You must have an e-Passport
As of 1 April 2016, all VWP travellers must hold an e-Passport. An e-Passport contains an electronic chip which stores the same information that is written within the passport. Further information on this requirement is available here.
In order to submit an ESTA application, you must pay a $4 processing charge. If you are succeesful and travel authorisation is granted, an additional $10 will be charged to your card. If travel authorisation is declined, no further payment is due (only the $4 processing charge).
90 days or less
A Visa Waiver Program traveller can only travel to the USA for 90 days or less (not 3 months as this is often longer than 90 days!). If you intend to travel to the USA for longer than 90 days, you will require a US visa for your travels; you may wish to obtain legal advice prior to making a visa application as a greater level of assistance can often be given before an initial visa application rather than after a visa denial.
Permitted Activities under the Visa Waiver Program
It is essential that your travel purposes be permitted under the Visa Waiver Program, such as travelling to the USA as a tourist or to visit with friends. The full list of permitted activities as a visitor for pleasure or a visitor for business is available here.
Not being otherwise ineligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program
Certain individuals may be disqualified from travelling visa-free if they have certain criminal convictions or present some other potential complication. Read further information on this issue provided by the United States Embassy in London.
Security Changes to the Visa Waiver Program
On December 18, 2015, the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 was signed into law. The Act changed the VWP eligibility criteria, imposing additional restrictions. On January 21, 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) began implementing the Act.
Under the Act, travellers otherwise eligible to travel to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program are disqualified from travelling visa free if they meet one of the specified criteria. U.S. Customs and Border Protection has released further information in its Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act Frequently Asked Questions. CBP published additional restrictions for VWP travellers in June 2016.
If Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) travel is not possible
If you have been declined an ESTA, or if you are otherwise not eligible to travel to the USA visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program, you will need a US visa in your passport before being able to travel to the USA.
While being denied ESTA travel authorisation is a difficult and frustrating experience, you may be able to obtain a US visa of up to 10 years. Looking for a lawyer for your visa application in London? If you have been denied ESTA authorisation, the firm is prepared to analyse your situation and determine how the firm can be of assistance in helping you gain entrance into the United States.