Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
If you are interested in traveling to the United States for business or pleasure for 90 days or less, you may be eligible to enter under the Visa Waiver Program rather than applying for a Visitor (B) Visa, saving time and money. If you have a question about the Visa Waiver Program, or wish to enter the United States using the VWP for business or pleasure, our lawyers are experienced and will spend the time to understand your concerns. We have decades of collective experience in a variety of complex business and immigration matters. Contact us today for a consultation.
Q: What is the VWP?
Administered by the Department of Homeland Security, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) permits eligible citizens of participating countries to enter the United States without first obtaining a Visitor (B) Visa.
Q: How long am I permitted to stay in the United States under the VWP?
Under the VWP, eligible visitors may travel to the United States for a period of 90 days or less.
Q: What are the requirements for the VWP?
There are several requirements for qualification under the VWP. For your convenience, we have provided you with a brief description of these requirements. Because each person’s situation is different, it is important to discuss your options with one of our knowledgeable attorneys to learn if you qualify for the VWP.
The VWP permits citizens of certain nations to travel to the United States without a visa. In order to qualify for the VWP, you must be a national of one of the participating VWP countries.
In addition, the purpose of your trip to the United States must be permitted on a Visitor (B) Visa. You are permitted to visit for business purposes, such as attending conferences or conventions; attending short-term training for which you are not compensated; or meeting with business associates. You may also enter the United States for pleasure, such as going on vacation or holiday; visiting friends or family; receiving medical treatment; participating in social events or amateur events or contests; or participating in short-term recreational study programs. Keep in mind that there several nuances to the permissible purpose requirement of the VWP. Be certain to consult with one of our experienced attorneys to learn if the purpose of your travel is permissible under the VWP.
Furthermore, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a US bound carrier. ESTA is an online application form that pre-determines your eligibility to travel to the United States. You must be pre-approved and have in your possession an approved ESTA Travel Authorization prior to boarding any carrier to the United States. For more information about ESTA, click here.
In order to enter the United States under the VWP, you must be travelling on an Approved Carrier. Fortunately, most carriers have been approved.
Before seeking entry to the United States under the VWP, you must ensure that your passport meets certain requirements. Each traveler, including infants, must have a valid passport. In addition, passport must be valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States.
There are additional passport requirements, depending on your nation of citizenship. Citizens of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, and the Slovak Republic must have a machine readable passport with an integrated chip containing information from the passport data page (e-passport). Citizens of Taiwan must have a machine readable e-passport and a national ID number.
Citizens of all other VWP participating nations must have at least a machine readable passport. There are additional passport requirements, depending on when your passport was issued. If your passport was issued on or after October 26, 2006, then you must have a machine readable e-passport. If your passport was issued between October 26, 2005 and October 25, 2006, then your machine-readable passport must have a digital photograph printed on the data page or an integrated chip with information from the data page (e-passport). If your passport was issued before October 25, 2005, then a machine-readable passport is sufficient. These requirements are very specific and may be confusing to you. If you’d like to find out if your passport meets the requirements of the VWP, contact us.
Even if you are otherwise eligible for the VWS, there are certain circumstances that may disqualify you from utilizing the VWP. For instance, you must not have any prior visa denials. In addition, you must not have ever been found ineligible for a U.S. visa. Lastly, if you have ever held a U.S. visa, you must have been in compliance with all conditions of that visa. If you have further questions about what circumstances may disqualify you from the VWP, contact us for an in-depth discussion of the eligibility requirements of the VWP.
Q: If I am admitted to the United States under the VWP, may I travel elsewhere?
Yes. If you enter the United Stated under the VWP, then you are permitted to travel to Canada, Mexico, or nearby islands and be readmitted to the United States so long as you are within the original 90 day period granted to you at the time of your first admission to the United States under the VWP.
Q: Can I extend the duration of my stay if I was admitted to the United States under the VWP?
In general, you cannot extend the duration of your stay if you entered the United States under the VWP. However, in some very restricted cases, the local USCIS Director may grant what is called “Satisfactory Departure,” which allows an additional 30 days for you to depart from the United States. Keep in mind that Satisfactory Departure is only granted under extenuating circumstances and should not be relied upon as a way to extend your stay absent proof of necessity.
Q: Can I Adjust my Status if I entered under the Visa Waiver Program? If so, how?
In general, foreign nationals who entered the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are per se ineligible to adjust their status to legal permanent residence. However, there is an exception to this rule. Immediate relatives, meaning children, parents, or spouses of U.S. citizens who last entered the United States pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program are eligible to adjust status. Read more about adjusting status while in the United States under the VWP here.
Keep in mind that even if you do not qualify for the Visa Waiver Program, you may still apply for a Visitor Visa. If you would like to seek admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program or if you have any additional questions about the Visa Waiver Program, contact the Law Firm of Shihab & Associates to speak with an experienced attorney today.