Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows you to travel to the United States with ESTA authorization, without having to apply for a visa. The result of collaboration between Department of Homeland Security and the State Department , it allows nationals of the 40 countries covered by the program, holding a valid passport, to fill out only the ESTA questionnaire before flying to the United States rather than having to make an ESTA request. visa application with the American embassy.
This article reviews the entire visa waiver program, its requirements and requirements, the necessary documents and other important details to know.
The conditions necessary to benefit from the Visa Waiver Program
To benefit from the visa waiver offered by the Visa Waiver Program and therefore travel without a visa, you must meet the following conditions:
- You must have a valid passport for the duration of your stay in the United States and until the date of your return (since April 1, 2016, electronic passports are required) ;
- In addition, you must not plan to stay longer than 90 days and must have a return ticket;
- You must travel with an airline or cruise line approved by the program;
- You must, of course, be a national of a country participating in the program.
> List of countries participating in the Program
Here is the list of the 40 participating countries as of June 1, 2023:
|Estonia||Latvia||Rep. Czech||Croatia (2021)|
> Recent changes (2016) made to the exemption program
In recent years, the United States has implemented a change to the visa-free program, and these changes have been made under the “Enhancing the Visa Waiver and Terrorist Prevention Program” Act. .
Since this law, some travelers can no longer travel to the United States as part of the visa waiver program, are concerned:
- Nationals of visa-exempt countries in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since March 1, 2011. There are possible exceptions for diplomats and military personnel.
- Nationals of visa-exempt countries who are also Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationals.
> How does a country adhere to the visa waiver program?
To become a member of the Visa Waiver Program, a country must meet certain conditions:
- Issuing electronic passports;
- To have participated in the sharing of security and law enforcement data with the United States;
- Report all stolen and lost passports;
- Refuse less than 3% of B visas requested;
- Effective counter-terrorism, border control, law enforcement and other security standards.
Benefits and limitations of VWP travel
The benefits of the visa waiver program are numerous. You will not have to apply for a visa, which takes time, effort and a lot of documents. With minimal effort on a computer, you can get VWP approval and get ready to plan your trip to the United States. You will also avoid long processing times. Therefore, if you are traveling for work or traveling to the United States. as soon as possible, you can do it with the VWP.
What’s more, the Visa Exception Program also allows you to take a short break in Canada, Mexico or even an island close to the USA. When you return to U.S. soil after this little excursion, you’ll be able to re-enter the U.S. with your ESTA authorization. Of course, these short stays abroad are included in the maximum period of presence authorized, i.e. a maximum of 90 days.
> What activities are allowed with an ESTA?
First of all, you need to review the activities allowed under the Visa Waiver Program. The ESTA only allows you to carry out certain activities in the United States. Here is a list of possible activities:
- Visit friends or family in the United States, take tourist leave on American soil, visit cities and travel the United States ;
- Travelling to the United States for treatment in a healthcare facility;
- Participate in charity events, or in sporting or musical events for which you are not paid;
- Take part in short training courses for which you receive no subsidy (e.g. music, drama or cookery courses);
- Carry out contractual and commercial negotiations or dealings with legal service providers;
- Investing in the United States;
- Take training courses or attend professional conferences.
> What are the limitations of the visa waiver program
With an ESTA obtained under the Visa Waiver Program, you cannot carry out all possible activities in the United States. Here are some activities you are not allowed to do in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program:
- Becoming a student in the United States, whether full-time or part-time;
- You cannot perform services and be paid for them;
- You cannot be hired to work, regardless of the form or duration of the employment;
- It is impossible for you to collaborate in any way with the press or as part of a journalistic assignment;
- You won’t be able to sign on as a crew member aboard a plane or ship either;
- Finally, you are formally prohibited from seeking permanent residency in the United States.