Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 37 participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less.  Travelers must be eligible to use the VWP and have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel.

The purposes of the travel for business or pleasure is the same as that for the B-1 and B-2 visitor visas.

Business purposes include:

  • Consulting with business associates
  • Traveling for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or a conference on specific dates
  • Settling an estate
  • Negotiating a contract
  • Participating in short-term training
  • Litigation

Pleasure purposes include:

  • Tourism
  • Vacation (holiday)
  • Visit with friends or relatives
  • Medical treatment
  • Participation in social events hosted by fraternal, social, or service organizations
  • Participation by amateurs in musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid for participating
  • Enrollment in a short recreational course of study, not for credit toward a degree (for example, a two-day cooking class while on vacation)

You are not authorized to engage in employment or take school courses for credit.

Those admitted for business receive WB status and those admitted for pleasure receive WT status.

Each Traveler Must have authorization under ESTA

In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through ESTA prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business.

Travel Must be on an Approved Carrier

If arriving by air or sea, you must be arriving on an approved air or sea carrier.  You must also have a round trip ticket indicating return passage to a country outside the United States.

Previous Compliance and No Prior Visa Ineligibilities

If you have had a U.S. visa before or previously traveled to the United States under the VWP or another status, you must have complied with the conditions of previous admissions to the United States, and you must not have previously been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.

Travelers should be aware that by requesting admission under the Visa Waiver Program, they are generally waiving their right to review or appeal a CBP officer’s decision as to their application for admission at the port of entry.

Have the Correct Type of Passport

You must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). For families, each member of your family, including infants and children, must have his/her own passport.

Trips to Canada, Mexico, or nearby Islands

If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may take a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or a nearby island and generally be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the remainder of the original 90 days granted upon your initial arrival in the United States.  Therefore, the length of time of your total stay, including the short trip, must be 90 days or less.

Sources: USCIS.gov, Travel.state.gov, CBP.gov