Visa Waiver Countries
To enjoy Visa Waiver Program, passengers are requested to check the below list of countries before applying a short term visa. If your country is listed here than its not compulsory for you to visit US embassy. As per the US international policy you are only required to apply for ESTA Visa.
Visa Waiver Countries
Visa Waiver means that the passengers who are permanent citizen of the selected country seeking entry for a short trip are not required to obtain a visa from the embassy. The program was passed in the US parliament in 1986 and in 1988 the United Kingdom was the first country listed in this program. After that few more European countries were added. Japan was the first Asian country added in this program. Now the list contain the name of 38 countries (check the below list).
Now the passenger from the listed country can enter in the United States by doing some basic formalities. If the passengers are coming via seaways or airways than they need to clear an extra layer of security i.e. ESTA which is developed after the recommendation of 9/11 commission to tighten the border security from any possible terrorist attack and mandatory after January 2009. Currently the passengers from the listed countries can travel with their bio-metric passport without printing or filling any extra document or form.
Visa / ESTA
The Visa Waiver Program is limited to the journey of 90 days to the 50 states of America, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands only for the purpose of trade, tourism and transiting the country. Travel for any other purpose or activity is strictly prohibited and cannot be extended or converted in any condition. If your travel purpose is different and for a limited time period then you need to apply for the non-immigrant visa through the United Stated embassy (please consult the embassy help desk for the list of documents). Applying for a visa is not a difficult process, you can also contact your travel agent who can also file your visa application on your behalf. Normally the visa process will take 1 month so its always advisable to plan your trip accordingly to avoid any complication.
Recent events of the VISA Waiver program
- After the expansion of the European Union a Visa Waiver Roadmap was crated by adding more 19 European countries in this program. This was done by the joint efforts of European Union and the U.S govt by signing a bilateral agreement with newly added countries.
- US President George W. Bush announced in the year 2008 about the new list of nations added in its VW Program. The names are South Korea, Hungary, Lithuania, Latvia, Czech Republic, Estonia and Czech Republic. The U.S. CIS Department was not in the favor to add South Korea as the visa refusal rate was high which is against the VWP rules.
- The CBP start accepting ESTA application of Maltese citizens from December 30th 2008 after the agreement signed between both countries on December 22nd 2008.
- In June 2008, Bulgaria was also added in this program which was officially announced by the Foreign Ministry of Bulgaria after the provisional agreement signed by the Secretary Michael Chertoff of U.S. Homeland Security.
- Greece was added after the tie-up on dated 5th April 2010. After this tie-up Greece citizens can travel Visa free to the United States.
- The United States President Barack Obama announced to add Poland in its Visa Waiver Program, but after reviewing the visa refusal data the process is not approved by the Citizenship and Immigration Services Department of the United States. The one more major factor was that the Polish citizens were also involved in the illegal immigration.
- Taiwan was added on dated 1st November 2012 which was announced on the 2nd October 2012 by the Secretary Napolitano with an extra condition that the chip on the passport must contain the National Identification Number of the citizen.
If the nationals and citizens are involved in violating the ESTA rules or start doing work on the non-immigrant visa, then the United States may withdraw the VWP agreement. The VWP eligibility is not measured with the country's economic status.