Visa Waiver Program
On this page:
- Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
- Passport Requirements
- ESTA Refusal
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor visa purposes) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are required to apply for authorization though the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) are screened at their port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s OBIM program.
Republic of Korea
Nationals of member countries can travel without a visa for tourist and business travel of 90 days or less provided they meet the following requirements:
- Possess a passport with an integrated chip (e-passport))
- Register on-line through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
- Meet the standard VWP conditions mentioned below
Review the Visa Waiver Program quick reference handout to learn more about VWP travel. For citizens of Canada, Mexico, and British Overseas Territories of Bermuda, please visit State Department's Travel website.
Canada, Mexico and Bermuda are not participants in the Visa Waiver Program. The Immigration and Nationality Act includes other provisions for visa-free travel for nationals of Canada and Bermuda under certain circumstances. See Citizens of Canada and Bermuda. Since they are not part of the Visa Waiver Program, VWP requirements for machine-readable or biometric passports do not apply to nationals of Canada, Mexico or Bermuda. Also, it should be noted that some nationals of Canada and Bermuda traveling to the United States require nonimmigrant visas.
* With respect to all references to “country” or “countries” on this page, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the Visa Waiver Program authorizing legislation, Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1187, are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.
To enter the U.S. on the Visa Waiver Program, travelers must be:
- A citizen of one of the countries listed above, and in possession of a VWP-compliant passport.
- Possessing the ESTA authorization
- Staying in the U.S. for 90 days or less
- Plan to travel for:
a. Business - The purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates, travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates, settle an estate, or negotiate a contract.
b. Pleasure/Tourism - The purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, vacation (holiday), amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment, activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature, and participation by amateurs, who will receive no remuneration, in musical, sports and similar events or contests.
c. Transit - If you are traveling through the United States.
AND if entering the U.S. by air or sea must be:
- Holding a return or onward ticket. If travelling on an electronic ticket, a copy of the itinerary must be carried for presentation to the immigration inspector. Travelers with onward tickets terminating in Mexico, Canada, Bermuda or the Caribbean Islands must be legal residents of these areas.
- Entering the United States aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program. This includes aircraft of a U.S. corporation that has entered into an agreement with the Department of Homeland Security to carry passengers under the Visa Waiver Program.
If entering the U.S. by land from Canada or Mexico, the documentary requirements are the same, except there is no requirement for round-trip tickets and signatory carriers. You must satisfy the inspecting officer that you have funds to support yourself during your stay and to depart the U.S.
Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
All nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the U.S. for temporary business or pleasure require an approved Electronic Syste m for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. under the VWP.
All VWP travelers, regardless of age or type of passport used, must present a machine-readable passport. In addition, depending on when VWP travelers’ passports were issued, other passport requirements apply:
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended on or after October 26, 2006 requires integrated chip with information from the data page (e-Passport).
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006 require digital photograph printed on the data page.
- Machine-readable passports issued or renewed/extended before October 26, 2005have no further requirements.
Passport Validity: Visitors traveling to the U.S. are required to be in possession of passports that are valid for six months beyond the period of their intended stay in the U.S. Citizens of the countries listed on Six Month Club Update are exempt to the six-month rule and need only have a passport valid for their intended period of stay. If you are traveling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program, your passport needs to be valid for at least 90 days. If your passport is not valid for 90 days, you will be admitted into the U.S. until the date on which the passport expires.
f you are a traveler from a VWP country and your passport does not meet these requirements, you may want to consider obtaining a new VWP-compliant passport from the passport issuing authority in your country of citizenship. Otherwise you cannot travel under VWP and you must obtain a visa in your valid passport for entry into the U.S.
Some travelers may not be eligible to enter the U.S. visa free under the VWP. These include people who have been arrested, even if the arrest did not result in a criminal conviction, those with criminal records (even if subject of a pardon, amnesty, or other act of clemency), certain serious communicable illnesses, those who have been refused admission into, or have been deported from, the U.S., or have previously overstayed on the visa waiver program. Such travelers must apply for a visa. If they attempt to travel without a visa, they may be refused entry into the U.S.
Travelers with minor traffic offenses which did not result in an arrest and/or conviction for the offense may travel visa free, provided they are otherwise qualified. If the traffic offense occurred while you were in the U.S. and you have an outstanding fine against you or you did not attend your court hearing, it is possible there may be a warrant out for your arrest and you will experience problems when applying for admission into the U.S. Therefore, you should resolve the issue before travelling by contacting the court where you were to appear. If you do not know the address of the court, then information is available from the Internet at: www.refdesk.com.
Visa-free travel does not include those who plan to study, work or remain in the U.S. for longer than 90 days or envisions that they may wish to change their status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the U.S. Such travelers need visas. If an immigration officer believes that a visa-free traveler is going to study, work or stay longer than 90 days, the officer will refuse to admit the traveler.
Travelers who have been refused an ESTA cannot travel under the VWP. Please apply for a visa before departure.