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. Born from the collaboration between the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of States, it allows nationals of the 39 countries covered by the program, with a valid passport, to complete only the ESTA questionnaire. before flying to the United States rather than having to apply for a visa from the US 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 qualify for 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, ePassports are required);
  • In addition, you must not have the plan to stay longer than 90 days and must have a return ticket ;
  • You must travel with an airline or cruise approved by the program ;
  • You must of course be a national of a participating country.

> List of countries participating in the Program

Here is the list of the 39 participating countries updated as of May 1, 2020:

United Kingdom
San Marino
New Zealand
South Korea
Czech Republic
*Pologne membre du VWP depuis le 1er nov.2019

> 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 1 March 2011. There are possible exceptions for diplomats and military personnel.
  • Nationals from visa-exempt countries who also have Iranian, Iraqi, Sudanese or Syrian nationality.

> 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:

  • Issue e-passports;
  • Participate in the sharing of security and law enforcement data with the United States;
  • Report all stolen and lost passports;
  • Refuse less than 3% of the B visas requested;
  • Have a successful fight against terrorism, for the control of borders, for the application of the law and certain other safety 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.

In addition, Visa’s exceptional program also allows you to make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or even to an island near the United States. When you return to American soil after this short excursion, you will be able to enter the United States again with your ESTA authorization. Of course, these short stays abroad are included in the maximum duration of presence allowed, ie 90 days maximum.

> What activities are allowed with an ESTA?

First and foremost, you must review the activities permitted under the Visa Waiver Program. The ESTA only allows you to have some activities in the United States, here is the list of possible activities:

  • Visit friends or relatives in the United States, take tourist holidays in the United States, visit cities and travel the United States;
  • Travel to the United States for treatment at a health facility
  • Participate in charity events, or sports or music events for which you are not paid;
  • Participate in short courses for which you do not receive any subsidy (eg music, theater, cooking classes);
  • Carry out contractual, commercial or relationship negotiations with legal service providers;
  • Invest in the US
  • 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 can not perform all possible activities in the United States. Here are some activities that you are not allowed to do in the United States under the Visa Waiver Program:

  • Become a student in the United States, whether full-time or part-time;
  • You can not perform service and get paid for it;
  • You can not be hired to work, regardless of the form or duration of the job;
  • It is impossible for you to collaborate in one way or another with the press or as part of a journalism mission;
  • You will not be able to hire a crew member aboard an airplane or boat;
  • Finally, you are strictly prohibited from seeking permanent residence in the United States.