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Visa Waiver Program for Business Visitors & Tourists


With few exceptions, a foreign national seeking to enter the United States must first apply at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad for (and be issued) a U.S. visa.  The Visa Waiver Program ("VWP") allows citizens of designated countries to apply for admission to the United States as visitors without first obtaining nonimmigrant visas from U.S. consulates.  Use of the VWP—which is entirely voluntary—is limited to business visitors (who normally would hold "B-1" visas) and to visitors for pleasure (who normally would hold "B-2" visas).

Eligible Nationalities

The following 38 countries have been designated to participate:  Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and United Kingdom (excluding British overseas and dependent territories citizens).


To apply for admission into the United States under the VWP, the traveler must meet certain conditions:

  • seek admission as a business visitor or tourist for 90 days or less;
  • be a national of a VWP country;
  • present an electronic passport or a machine-readable passport issued by a VWP country;
  • if arriving by air or sea, arrive on an authorized carrier;
  • not represent a (welfare, health, safety or security) threat to the United States;
  • not have violated U.S. immigration law during a previous VWP visit;
  • possess a round-trip ticket;
  • have proof of financial solvency; and
  • waive any right to review or appeal a decision regarding admissibility to the U.S. or contest any action for removal (exclusion or deportation).

All VWP visitors must first comply with “ESTA”—the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.  ESTA is an automated system operated by the U.S. government to assist in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP by identifying whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk.  All nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States under the VWP must receive an authorization through ESTA before boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or vessel.  Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, must obtain an independent ESTA approval.  More information on ESTA can be found at


Certain people may not be eligible for the VWP.  For instance, the following persons should apply at a U.S. consulate or embassy before attempting entry under the VWP: those who

  • Have violated the conditions of entry on any previous trip to the United States and/or have been excluded or deported;
  • Have been arrested for any offense of crime;
  • Have a serious communicable disease (such as infectious tuberculosis);
  • Are drug abusers or addicts or have ever trafficked in illegal drugs;
  • Have ever been refused a U.S. visa or entry into the United States;
  • Have a mental or physical disorder.

Visitors applying for entry are allowed to remain for 90 days only, may not seek an extension of stay beyond 90 days, and may not change nonimmigrant status or (with the exception of immediate relatives) apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent resident.  Furthermore, visitors are not permitted to work or study.

Waiver of Rights

Foreign nationals who travel to the United States with B-1 and/or B-2 visas and whose admissibility is challenged may (under some circumstances) request a hearing before a U.S. immigration judge. However, VWP applicants (except asylum applicants) waive all right to a hearing if the U.S. immigration officer should decide not to admit the applicant.  Under the VWP, an immigration officer may summarily exclude a visitor if the officer does not believe that the visitor is clearly admissible. 

Foreign nationals who are concerned about the possibility of summary exclusion or who might need to remain longer than 90 days, should apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa at the U.S. consular office closest to their place of residence abroad.


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