A Step-by-Step Guide to the Visa Waiver Program

A Step-by-Step Guide to the Visa Waiver Program

Traveling to the US is definitely not an easy task for foreigners. Though the United States passport is accepted quite easily all over the world, entering the US on another passport is an entirely different story. Most people looking to travel to the US can expect to deal with some stressful measures, though that may depend on where you’re from.

The United States has a special Visa Waiver Program for a list of countries, allowing citizens from those countries to enter the US visa-free. The application can be a little confusing, though, and submitting official paperwork to any government body is stressful. I've waited months for visa applications to come back to me, not knowing if I even filled out the forms properly.

Luckily, there are services like ESTAs, who make the ESTA application process simple and easy. They've submitted the applications thousands of times, and they know exactly what they're doing. Sending your application through ESTAs means you don't have to worry, and you can travel on the Visa Waiver Program, stress-free.

Step One: Know what it means

The Visa Waiver program essentially means that you don’t need an official visa to come to the US. It allows visitors to stay for up to 90 days. If you plan on staying more, even if your country falls on the list, you will need to look into visa options which are infinitely more complicated. During your time in the US, you may travel to Mexico and Canada as long as it’s within the 90 days.

Step Two: Know if your country is on the list

Currently, there are 38 countries that are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Chile, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein,  Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Each country, however, has some specific instructions, and you definitely want to make sure you've got all the paperwork you need. Want more information on your country's regulations? Check your passport requirements.

Step Three: Know what the restrictions are

This is a tourist visa, meaning there are certain things you’re unable to do while in the US. You may not take part in any studies for credit, become gainfully employed, or become a permanent resident by overstaying your visa. You may visit strictly for tourism or business matters. You cannot extend your stay and you cannot apply for a change in visa status while in the US.

Step Four: Make sure you have all the requirements

There are several requirements for visiting the US on the VWP.

  • First, you must arrive on an approved carrier by land or sea. There’s many familiar carriers on this list, so no worries. You must have a round trip ticket to show immigration officials before you enter the country.
  • You must have never been ineligible for a visa before, and if you’ve ever visited the US on WPV or other status before, you must not have had any violations.
  • Your passport must be valid for 6 months after your departure date. Depending on which country you’re coming from, you have to make sure your passport has a chip in it (it must be read by the scanners when you enter immigration). This allows it to be scanned. It’s known as an e-passport.
  • You must have an approved ESTA form.

Step Five: Completing your ESTA form

You can fill out an official ESTA application, or you can submit your information to ESTAs. Both are valid options, and if you think you can do it on your own, you'll be fine with the official form. If you want to take some of the hassle out of it, and be comfortable knowing that your application is going to get approved, let the experts take care of it. ESTAs has you covered.

4 Responses to A Step-by-Step Guide to the Visa Waiver Program

  1. Zascha January 14, 2016 at 6:05 am #

    I found the ESTA form quite easy to fill out and that was that. But last summer when I needed to get a visa to work in the US for three months…? Jesus Christ, that was a long and difficult process – but totally worth it, though.

    • Jeremy Scott Foster January 14, 2016 at 10:18 am #

      What did you have to do? As an American I’ll never have to go through the process, but I’m curious to hear what’s involved!

      • Zascha January 14, 2016 at 10:47 am #

        I had to fill in a really long form online. LOADS of questions. Then I had to upload a special sized passport photo – apparently the US uses different sizes than Europe. I had to redo it 3 times at the photo shop! And then I had to go to the American embassy in London for an interview and to have my fingerprints taken twice. When I got to New York they checked my fingerprints, took a photo and questioned what my intentions in America was before I was finally let in to the country 🙂

  2. Ross West March 8, 2018 at 5:28 am #

    Thanks for sharing this guide. This ESTA form filling procedures is very long and time consuming but it is necessary if you want to travel USA from any Visa exempt countries.

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