What is ESTA and the Visa Waiver Program?

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What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in consultation with the State Department, permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa.  In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes. For our blog posts on B-1 Business Visitor and B-2 Tourist Visas, please click on the links.

Which countries are included in the Program?
There are currently 38 countries participating in the VWP.

  • Andorra (1991)
  • Australia (1996)
  • Austria (1991)
  • Belgium (1991)
  • Brunei (1993)
  • Chile (2014)
  • Czech Republic (2008)
  • Denmark (1991)
  • Estonia (2008)
  • Finland (1991)
  • France (1989)
  • Germany (1989)
  • Greece (2010)
  • Hungary (2008)
  • Iceland (1991)
  • Ireland (1995)
  • Italy (1989)
  • Japan (1988)
  • Korea, Republic of (2008)
  • Latvia (2008)
  • Liechtenstein (1991)
  • Lithuania (2008)
  • Luxembourg (1991)
  • Malta (2008)
  • Monaco (1991)
  • Netherlands (1989)
  • New Zealand (1991)
  • Norway (1991)
  • Portugal (1999)
  • San Marino (1991)
  • Singapore (1999)
  • Slovakia (2008)
  • Slovenia (1997)
  • Spain (1991)
  • Sweden (1989)
  • Switzerland (1989)
  • Taiwan (2012)
  • United Kingdom (1988)

Citizens of the new countries of Curacao, Bonaire, St. Eustatius, Saba, and St. Maarten (the former Netherlands Antilles) are not eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP if they are using passports from these countries.

What are the passport requirements?
Passports must have a machine-readable zone on the biographic page and must be an electronic passport (E-Passport) with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner. As of April 1, 2016, all travelers must have an E-Passport to use the VWP. An E-Passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. More information can be found on the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website.

What is ESTA?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is a fully automated, electronic system for screening passengers before they begin travel to the United States under the VWP. Eligible citizens or nationals from all VWP countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP. More information can be found on the CBP website.

If you are planning to visit the United States and would like more information on the process, please contact us. We can help. Follow us on InstagramTwitterFacebookLinkedIn and Tumblr, for up-to-date immigration news.


Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
Contact us at (888) 445-7066  or info@legalease.us. We are also on social media and on Skype: @LegalEaseUS. ||www.LegalEase.us
This website and blog constitute attorney advertising. Do not consider anything on this website or blog legal advice as the law is dynamic, particularly in the immigration field and nothing in this website constitutes an attorney-client relationship being formed. Set up a one-hour consultation with us before acting on anything you read here. Past results are no guarantee of future results and prior results do not imply or predict future results. Each case is different and must be judged on its own merits.