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About the Visa Waiver Program

1.ESTA application:About the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a program of the United States government that permits nationals of specific countries to be able to stay in the U.S. for up to 90 days without a visa. To be eligible for the VWP, travelers must be visiting for tourism or short-term business purposes and must have return tickets or onward tickets to their next destinations. They also must have valid passports. Travelers from nations eligible for the VWP also may apply for visas. The following are countries participating in the VWP:

  • Germany
  • France
  • Finland
  • Estonia
  • Denmark
  • Czech Republic
  • Chile
  • Brunei
  • Belgium
  • Austria
  • Australia
  • Andorra
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • Japan
  • Taiwan
  • South Korea
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Spain
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Hungary
  • Greece
  • Italy
  • Monaco
  • Malta
  • Latvia
  • Lichtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • United Kingdom

Note: The VWP may be available for British subjects only if they have permanent residency in the Channel Islands, the Isle of Mann, Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, or Wales.

Criteria for participation in the VWP are established in the Aliens and Nationality Act (Title 8 U.S.C. §1187). These criteria are based on having very low rates of refusal of nonimmigrant visas and on levels of passport security.

Starting dates of VWP application by country

  • July 1, 1988: United Kingdom
  • December 16, 1988: Japan
  • October 1, 1989: France
  • October 1, 1989: Germany
  • October 1, 1989: Italy
  • October 1, 1989: Netherlands
  • October 1, 1989: Sweden
  • October 1, 1989: Switzerland
  • 1991: Iceland
  • 1991: Andorra
  • 1991: Austria
  • 1991: Belgium
  • 1991: Denmark
  • 1991: Finland
  • 1991: Lichtenstein
  • 1991: Luxembourg
  • 1991: Monaco
  • 1991: Norway
  • 1991: San Marino
  • 1991: Spain
  • 1991: New Zealand
  • 1993: Brunei
  • April 1, 1995: Ireland
  • 1996: Australia
  • September 30, 1997: Slovenia
  • August 9, 1999: Singapore
  • August 9, 1999: Portugal
  • November 17, 2008: South Korea
  • November 17, 2008: Czech Republic
  • November 17, 2008: Estonia
  • November 17, 2008: Hungary
  • November 17, 2008: Latvia
  • November 17, 2008: Lithuania
  • November 17, 2008: Slovakia
  • December 30, 2008: Malta
  • April 5, 2010: Greece
  • November 1, 2012: Republic of China (Taiwan)
  • February 28, 2014: Chile
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2.Conditions of being eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The following conditions apply in order to be able to enter the U.S. through the VWP.

  • ①Must have applied for and obtained authorization using ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization).
  • ②Period of stay in the United States must be no longer than 90 days.
  • ③Must carry a passport (with an IC chip) of one of the nations participating in the VWP.
  • ④Purpose for visiting U.S. must be followings: business, short-term training, contractual negotiations, sightseeing, tourism, visiting acquaintances, participation in events or contests without receiving any compensation, transit, and/or passage.
  • ⑤When entering the U.S. by sea or air, must possess a ticket to the next destination or a return ticket. If using e-tickets, carry a copy of your travel itinerary.

3.Conditions for entry to the U.S. by land

Nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for whom the first means of entry to the U.S. by an overland route do not need to apply for ESTA (the Electronic System for Travel Authorization). At present, ESTA applies only to those arriving on cruise ships or by air. Travelers entering the U.S. by land must submit Form I-94W (https://www.cbp.gov/travel/international-visitors/i-94-instructions).

4.The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Terrorist Travel Prevention Act

Under the VWP (Visa Waiver Program), those who have travelled to or entered Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iraq, Iran, or the Sudan on or after March 1, 2011 may not enter the United States with the VWP. Also, travelers with dual citizenship in the Sudan, Syria, Iraq, or Iran in addition to a country eligible for the VWP are ineligible for the VWP to enter the United States, although those travelers who meet the following conditions may be exempt from these restrictions.

  • ① Those who entered Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the Sudan, Iraq, Iran, or Syria for the purpose of performing the official duties of a governmental, regional, or international institution
  • ② Those who entered Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the Sudan, Iraq, Iran, or Syria for nongovernmental organization or humanitarian aid purposes
  • ③ Those who entered Yemen, Libya, Somalia, the Sudan, Iraq, Iran, or Syria for purposes of reporting as journalists
  • ④ Those who entered Iran for business purposes on or after July 14, 2015
  • ⑤ Those who entered Iraq for business purposes

5.Travelers ineligible to use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Those with histories of arrest, criminal histories, or serious communicable diseases may not be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Besides, those persons who have been refused entry to or deported from the U.S. in the past or have entered the U.S. on the VWP and overstayed their visas may not apply for either ESTA or the VWP. It is expected that travel authorization application from those travelers will be rejected even if they do apply. Such travelers will need to apply for visas if they wish to visit the United States. Also, travelers desiring to stay in the U.S. for longer than 90 days for employment or to attend school there must apply for visas instead, since VWP is not available for them to enter the country.

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updated:2018/8/6