What is the visa waiver program?
The Visa Waiver Program allows citizens of selected countries to travel to the US for both tourism and business for up to 90 days without having to go through the lengthy process of a visa application.
The program applies to all 39 states.
All of the countries elected by the US government to be in the program have been chosen based on being high-income economies with a very highly regarded human development index.
As a whole, the countries on the list are generally seen as ‘developed.’
This is a program aims to make it easier for residents in selected countries who meet the conditions of the program.
Instead of going through a standard visa application process for the United States, people seeking to get a U.S. permit can get a quick permit and save a debilitating bureaucracy.
visa waiver program countries
All citizens of the below countries are currently legally allowed to travel to the United States of America under the visa waiver program:
|Country or Countries||Date Admitted to VWP|
|AndorraAustriaBelgiumDenmarkFinlandIcelandLiechtensteinLuxembourgSpainMonacoNew ZealandNorwaySan Marino||1991|
|Czech RepublicEstoniaHungaryLatviaLithuaniaMaltaSlovakiaSouth Korea||2008|
The passport specification needed for travel
To use the visa waiver program to travel to the US, everybody is required to have a valid ‘e-passport’.
What is an e-passport?
Also known as a biometric passport, an e-passport looks the same as a conventional passport, except that it has a tiny installed microchip that holds all of the relevant personal information.
You can easily distinguish an e-Passport by the unique symbol stamped on the passport cover.
What are the advantages of an e-passport?
The main advantages of holding an e-passport are that carriers have greater protection from fraudsters and gain much faster entry through facilitating border controls.
The chip that lies within an e-passport is encoded in a way that makes it difficult for criminals to falsify, making it far harder to replicate and to steal somebody’s identity.
Having an e-passport also allows you to use ‘e-gates’ that are at most airports in developed countries around the world.
‘E-gates’ are man-less border control points, that scan your e-passport, matching the chip information with the printed and the photo with your own face using facial recognition software.
This process is quick, efficient, and eliminates the chance of human error.
Is your trip allowed with Esta?
Planning a trip to the united states as a visa waiver program traveler? Then you must make sure that you are honest about the purpose of your trip.
Traveling to the united states of America to work, financial gain or degree credit is not permitted.
Below are some examples of legitimate activities that are allowed when traveling using the visa waiver program.
- Visiting of family or friends.
- Medical reasons and treatment.
- Support for cultural or social events that are hosted by connected organizations.
- Attending as an amateur to musical, sports, or similar events or contests, if not being paid.
- Enrollment in a short form study that does not constitute degree credit.
- To consult with business associates.
- Attend a convention or conference that is relevant to your own field of work.
- Attend short-form training that is relevant to your field of work or study.
- To negotiate a contract (No transactions must take place during negotiations).
Travel Purposes on the visa waiver program that are not permitted:
- To study for university/degree credit.
- Part-time/full time/casual employment that involves getting paid.
- To work as journalists or other news/reportage media.
- To permanently reside in the United States of America.
General Information on ESTA
What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization?
The Electronic System for Travel Authorization is a system put in place by the US government.
The system determines the eligibility of travelers to the united states by way of the visa waiver program (VWP)
The ESTA is a simple online form that can be filled out online and submitted in minutes. The form asks for some personal information and the reasons for your trip. If there are any questions that you are unsure about or need help with, consult with customer service before submitting, as any sections wrongly filled out may result in a rejection of your application.
As part of your application processing, we ensure that you have entered the critical information correctly in order to submit the application properly and increase your chances of obtaining the approval.
It is strongly advised that all applications are filled out and submitted at least 3 days prior to travel.
Travelers are able to apply prior to purchasing a ticket, or when making preparations. All passengers, including small children and babies without an ESTA will be denied access to check-in.
It currently costs $14.00 per ESTA application. The cost of our service including payment to the United States Embassy is $ 79. You will not be required to pay an additional fee for your ESTA at the airport or upon arrival in the US.
Is an ESTA the same as a visa?
Unfortunately, an ESTA does not meet any of the mandatory legal requirements needed to serve in place on a standard united states visa – so in a word, no, an ESTA is not the same as a visa and can not be used in place of one.
Those who hold a valid US visa are able to travel to the united stated without having to apply for ESTA. If the purpose of your trip has changed since the date it was issued you are required by law to notify concerning parties and may be required to re-apply or update your application.
Top 5 ESTA need-to-knows
1. You HAVE to complete an ESTA, even if only passing through.
The majority of people traveling to the united states (by plane or boat) will have to complete an ESTA form.
You may be denied boarding and sent home if you forget to fill in an ESTA or believe that it is not a necessary procedure as you are just ‘passing through.’
Of course, some travelers will require a visa in place of an ESTA, particularly those who plan to stay in the US for more than 90 days, or those who plan on working during their stay.
If you hold a current visa there is no need to fill out an ESTA form.
2. ESTA forms can only be filled out online.
All ESTA application forms must be completed online, so if you have limited or no internet access, you will have to find a relative, friend or who can do it for you, or alternatively you can visit an internet or library.
Once you have completed your ESTA form make sure to write down your reference number, as you might need to use it if there is a problem with your application or if you want to find your Esta approval easily later.
There is also a complete ‘authorization page’ that you can print out after you have sent off your application.
3. How much it costs?
There is a flat fee of $14.00 for all applications and does not depend on whether you received the certificate or not. When paying, check your bank’s terms and conditions, as you may be required to pay an ‘exchanging load fee’ for the transfer.
As we mentioned before, our service cost includes the fee to the United States Embassy and is $ 79.
4. Watch out for false ESTA sites looking to scam.
There are many sites that try to mirror that of the official ESTA web page, so be wary and double-check that you are on a legitimate site.
The sites that are trying to scam may tell you that it is completely free, but you still have to share your bank details to process the information.
As long as you pay more but get extra value from the web site you are using this is fine, but it is important that you use only a trusted web site service.
5. Your ESTA will need to be renewed after two years.
Your ESTA is only valid for 24 months, starting for that date of approval or until the passport expires – whichever comes first.
If you have an ESTA that is close to expiry, you will have to complete a new application and acquire a new reference number. If you are unsure about how long you have left on your ESTA, you can contact us so we can check your ESTA validity for you.
We believe and hope that the content you have read will assist you in the process of issuing an ESTA certification under the Visa Waiver Program.