Visa Waiver Program

The United States Congress created the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) back in 1986 to allow tourists and business travelers to speed up the process of being approved for travel to the United States. This reduces the need for so many tourist visa applications to be processed by the U.S State Department. Many countries have been included in this program however some have been excluded for various reasons, while others are in the process of requesting to be included and are waiting to be vetted.

What are the qualifications required to join the Visa Waiver Program?

    • Countries that have a good Human Development Index
    • Countries that are seen as a sovereign state
    • Countries that shares security data with the USA
    • Countries with a healthy economy
    • Countries with low levels of immigration violations
    • Countries with decent passport security measures to avoid fraud
    • Countries that have a low rate of visa denials
    • Countries with appropriate law enforcement and counterterrorism organization

This is a list of countries that are currently part of the Visa Waiver Program:

Country or Countries Date Admitted to VWP
  United Kingdom,   Japan 1988
  France,   Italy,   Netherlands,   Sweden,   Switzerland,   West Germany (later Germany in 1990) 1989
  Andorra,   Austria,   Belgium,   Denmark,   Finland,   Iceland,   Liechtenstein,   Luxembourg,   Monaco,   New Zealand,   Norway,   San Marino,   Spain 1991
  Brunei 1993
  Ireland 1995
  Australia 1996
  Slovenia 1997
  Portugal,   Singapore 1999
  Czech Republic,   Estonia,   Hungary,   Latvia,   Lithuania,   Malta,   Slovakia,   South Korea 2008
  Greece 2010
  Taiwan 2012
  Chile 2014
  Poland 2019

This is a list of countries that are currently removed from the Visa Waiver Program:

Argentina and Uruguay

This is a list of countries waiting for approval to be included in the Visa Waiver Program:

Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Romania, Turkey and Israel.

What are the requirements for citizens of VWP approved countries to get their travel authorization?

Citizens from counties included in the Visa Waiver Programwill need to obtain an ESTA approval. This will allow the person to get approved for travel on a short term notice without having to go through the extended protocols required for a regular traveler’s visa.

The creation of ESTA back in 2008 gave way to a simple and quicker process for individuals to submit their applications online and get a nearly instant response to know if they have been approved for travel. The ESTA application has some specific requirements that need to be met to get approval.

Relevant information regarding ESTA:

  • The ESTA is a visa waiver, notan actual visa
  • You need to get an ESTA if you plan to travel by Sea or Air
  • An approved ESTA is only an authorization to travel, but it does not guarantee you will be given access to the U.S. territory when you arrive at customs.
  • Only those who have passports from countries participating in the VWP can apply for an ESTA.
  • The ESTA allows a person to travel for business, tourism,medical purposes and transit, but they are not to remain in the country for any longer than 90 days
  • The ESTA allows a person to travel for business, tourism,medical purposes and transit, but they are not to remain in the country for any longer than 90 days
  • Once an ESTA is approved, it will have a 24-month period of validity unless the passport that was used to apply expires earlier
  • There is no age limit for an ESTA, all individuals must apply (including infants)
  • Individuals who havetraveled to North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, Yemenor Sudan after March 2011 OR is a dual citizen to any of those countries may not be approved for an ESTA but could still consider applying for the regular traveler’s visa.

For more information on ESTA applicant requirements, visit the following page: ESTA Requirements