The United States has a Visa Waiver Program that allows people to visit the country without a visa. This visa is designed for people from specific countries and only allows for a stay of less than 90 days.

If you are interested in learning whether the Visa Waiver Program (WVP) is right for you or want to begin the process of applying, call Tucker, Nong and Associates right away. Our licensed immigration lawyers can help you make the best decision and guide you through the entire process.

Eligibility Requirements for Visa Waiver Program

It is important for travelers to ensure that they are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. They must also have an electronic Travel Authorization system (ESTA) if they are going to come to the United States.

Here is a look at the requirements for this visa waiver program:

Visitors must be traveling to the States for tourism or a business reason

For business travelers, the list of acceptable reasons include:

  • consulting with associates
  • attending a conference
  • attending a training seminar
  • completing contract negotiations with a company

For Tourists: Tourists are permitted on the visa waiver program if they are coming to the United States for the following reasons:

  • holidays
  • visiting friends or family
  • engaging in a medical procedure
  • attending social events that they have helped to organize.
  • Participation in an athletics or performance arts related event

Not Eligible for Visa Waiver Program

Examples of people who would not be permitted to enter through a visa waiver are:

  • students coming to study for academic credit
  • workers planning on starting a job in the United States
  • people who wish to apply for permanent residence in the near future

These situations have different visas which are designed for specific purposes. Visit our immigration homepage for a full list of visas available.

There are 38 countries listed in the United States’ Visa Waiver Program right now. 

Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)

Anyone who wants to come to the United States through the visa waiver must have their ESTA completed before they get on a plane.

“ESTA” refers to an electronic system designed by United States agencies that helps determine whether an individual is eligible to fly into the United States without a visa. If your ESTA is not completed before travel, there is a chance you will be denied entry to the United States on arrival.

Use an Approved Air or Sea Agency

Visitors must also come from approved air or sea agencies. If you are planning a trip in the near future, check the list of approved carriers before you book any of your tickets. Travelers must also purchase a round trip ticket when they are booking their flights. A round trip ticket indicates to U.S. officials that you are planning on visiting for a specific set of dates, after which you will return to your home country.

Past Visas

Some people may find they are ineligible for the Visa Waiver because of infractions on previous visas. If you have previously received a U.S. visa and traveled to the country, it is important that you did not overstay. If there was any trouble during your last visit to the U.S., have an attorney go over the legal documents to determine your situation.

Valid Passports

If you are on the list of approved visa waiver countries, you must have a passport from that country that is valid for at least six months after your arrival date. If you are traveling with your family, ensure that every individual has their own valid passport. Children cannot travel to the U.S. on their parents’ passport(s). For most countries on the list, it is recommended that you have an updated passport that has electronic recognition data.

Passports that can be read by a machine make it a lot easier for airport officials to approve your entry into the country. These passports often have a bar code located near or on the first page when you open the passport. This barcode can be scanned at an airport to verify the authenticity of the passport.

Applying for a Visa

Some people may prefer to apply for a visa even if they can enter through the Visa Waiver Program. For example, you may want to stay in the United States for more than 90 days. In this case, it is recommended that you get a visa a few months before your intended travel date.

Individuals who have been refused a tourist or business visa when applying are unlikely to be granted entry through the waiver program. If you were recently denied a tourist or business visa, please talk with an attorney about your options.

Nearby Trips

When visiting the United States on a visa waiver, it is possible for you to take a trip to a nearby country and be readmitted. Countries eligible for this travel are Canada and Mexico. Just remember that your duration of stay in the United States (which includes any short trip to Canada or Mexico) cannot exceed 90 days.

Do You Need Help In Getting Your Green Card Or Visa in Virgina, Maryland or Washington D.C.?

If you're trying to obtain a Green Card or Visa you need to speak with an experienced immigration attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your case consultation.

Yuvora Nong
Helping VA, MD & Washington D.C. clients with all of their immigration law legal needs since 1997.