Planning a trip to the United States? Whether you’re heading to the coast for a beach vacation or “The Windy City” to attend a business conference, you may be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program – as long as you’re a citizen of an approved country and you plan to stay in the U.S. for 90 or fewer days.
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens who meet specific requirements to travel to the U.S. for approved business or tourism purposes – without first obtaining a visa. The program exists to eliminate unnecessary hurdles to travel, boost the tourism industry, and permit the U.S. Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas.
Prior to travel, you must obtain valid approval via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Once you begin travel under the VWP, you may only stay in the U.S. for 90 days or less. If you wish to stay in the country longer, you’ll be required to file for a different visa.
Who is eligible for the Visa Waiver Program?
Only citizens or nationals of the following 38 countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program:
- Asia – Japan, Brunei, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan
- Europe – Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom
- Oceana – Australia, New Zealand
- South America – Chile
The following are not eligible for the Visa Waiver Program:
- Citizens or nationals of VWP-approved nations who are also nationals of Iraq, Iran, Syria, or Sudan
- Nationals of VWP-approved nations who have been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for diplomatic or military reasons)
- British citizens who do not have unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man
What qualifications are needed for the Visa Waiver Program?
In addition to being a citizen or national of an approved country, there are certain VWP eligibility requirements you must meet in order to be approved for the program:
1. The purpose of your travel must be permitted under a Visitor (B) Visa. Accepted reasons for travel to the U.S. include, but are not limited to:
- Tourism or vacation
- Participation in a non-paid sporting event, contest, or musical
- Attendance of a conference or convention
- Consultation with business associates
- Non-paid, short-term training
2. You must have authorization under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This is the web-based system used by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to determine VWP eligibility.
3. Your passport must meet specific qualifications. Your passport must be valid for 6 months following your planned departure from the United States. It must also be machine-readable and include a digital photograph and an embedded electronic chip. You can learn more about the e-Passport on the DHS site.
NOTE: In certain circumstances, you may need to apply for a visa even if you’re from a qualifying country.
- You want to stay in the U.S. for longer than 90 days
- You want to work or study in the U.S. for credit
- You are traveling by private aircraft or other non-VWP-approved carrier
- You have a criminal record or other condition making you ineligible
- You have been refused admission to the United States before, or you did not comply with the conditions of previous Visa Waiver Program admissions
Did You Know?
Your domestic health insurance may not cover you in the United States – and people in the U.S. are responsible for their own healthcare costs. Travel medical insurance like Atlas America® insurance can provide you with access to quality medical care and financial help if the unexpected occurs as you explore the USA.
How do I enroll in the Visa Waiver Program?
Visitors to the United States who wish to enroll in the Visa Waiver Program should take the following steps:
- Ensure your eligibility – Make sure you are a citizen or national of a VWP-designated country and that the purpose of your travel is permitted on a Visitor (B) visa. You can see approved countries and travel purposes here.
- Acquire authorization – Apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). You can do this through the S. Department of Homeland Security’s ESTA page.
- Obtain the appropriate passport – If you don’t already have a valid, machine-readable passport, or if your passport will not be valid for the required six months after your expected stay in the U.S., then you’ll need to apply for one. To see passport requirements specific to the VWP, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s VWP requirements To learn how to apply for a passport, contact your embassy or consulate.
- Arrange travel through an approved carrier – Ensure that your travel is arranged through one of the approved carriers on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s VWP Signatory Carriers list.
WorldTrips international travel medical insurance products are underwritten by Lloyd's. WorldTrips is a service company and a member of the Tokio Marine HCC group of companies. WorldTrips has authority to enter into contracts of insurance on behalf of the Lloyd's underwriting members of Lloyd's Syndicate 4141, which is managed by HCC Underwriting Agency, Ltd.