What is the Visa Waiver Program?
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What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program is a program introduced by the United States of America Department of Homeland Security in relation to tourism and business trips to the United States. The program was designed to help make entry to the United States easier, in order to help improve tourism levels in the country while adding an additional layer of security for the country. The idea behind the US Visa Waiver is that you can travel to the US for a short-term period, if eligible for the program, for just business and pleasure purposes, without the need to venture through the lengthier process of obtaining a B-1 or B-2 visitor visa through a US embassy or consulate every time you wish to travel. Instead of having to obtain an official visitor visa, travellers can apply for an ESTA visa, short for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation, in order to help speed up the entire process for travellers wanting to visit the country.

Which Countries Are Eligible For The Visa Waiver Program?

Currently, just 38 countries from around the world are a part of the Visa Waiver Program. There is specific criteria and requirements in relation to the Visa Waiver, but generally citizens from the following countries are able to eligible to apply for an ESTA visa under the US Visa Waiver program.

Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the UK.

While there is a process in place that allows new countries to be added to the USA visa waiver, only the countries currently listed above are eligible. There have been some cases where a country’s rights to a visa waiver have been revoked (in the case of Argentina in 2002 and Uruguay in 2003), so it is important to keep up to date with any recent news and developments in relation to your country’s status prior to filling out your application.

What Are The Requirements Of The Visa Waiver Program?

While there are a number of countries that are eligible to be included in the Visa Waiver Program, there are a number of requirements that go alongside this. Firstly, any travellers from the countries listed above wishing to travel to the US, must only be travelling for the purpose of pleasure or business. In addition to this, travellers under the US Visa Waiver must only be travelling for a maximum period of 90-days at a time.

The US Visa Waiver also checks a number of other things, including criminal records in order to determine whether or not the traveller will be a risk to the safety of citizens in the US if they were to travel. Other aspects such as dual nationalities with certain countries, your destination in the US and your recent travel history will also be checked throughout the process.

Can I Still Get An ESTA Visa If I’m Not A Citizen Of One Of The Visa Waiver Program Countries?

You must be a citizen of one of the countries listed above in order to qualify for under the ESTA Visa Waiver. This was introduced as a level of safety after the 9/11 terror incident, and this has had regular updates in order to ensure that the entire process is fair and succinct. If you do not qualify for an ESTA Visa Waiver, then you will need to obtain a traditional travel visa (B-1 or B-2) in order to gain entry to the US. In order to do this, you will need to apply through a US embassy or consulate, and have an interview with one of the officers there, alongside filling out a lot of documentation relating to your identity, travel history, criminal record and more.

What’s The Difference Between An ESTA & A Visa?

An ESTA does not qualify as a proper ‘visa’ so to speak, and it is instead a Visa Waiver. This helps to speed up the entire process for tourists looking to enter the US as they do not have to go through the lengthy interview process of a traditional visitor visa. There are a number of different types of American Visas, and the USA visa waiver is simply for travel purposes for pleasure or business. You can obtain a visitor visa for this purpose if you do not qualify under the ESTA visa waiver, but other American visas can also cover work and residency.

How Can I Get An ESTA?

Applying for an ESTA is an online process, and we can help to make the process easier than ever. We run an efficient proof-reading and editing process in order to ensure that your application goes through to authorisation at its most accurate level. We can help you to fill in all of your information, or if you have previously applied for an ESTA visa through us, and your current ESTA has expired, then we can help you to update the relevant details to renew the ESTA visa waiver quickly.

If you are already in possession of an ESTA visa waiver under the Visa Waiver Program, then you will be ineligible and will not require a renewed ESTA or American Visa.

How Long Is An ESTA Valid For?

A USA Visa waiver is valid for a period of two years, or until passport expiry – whichever comes first. If you have legally changed name, gender, nationality or any other personal details, then you will need to reapply for an ESTA visa waiver, even if you current ESTA is still valid.

What Do I Do If My ESTA Visa Application Is Not Approved?

If your application is not approved under the Visa Waiver Program, then you will need to obtain a B-1 or B-2 travel visa through an US embassy or consulate. There are a number of reasons why your ESTA Visa application may not be approved, and this could relate to your criminal record or recent travel history. Once the application’s status decision has been made, this cannot be appealed. While you may be able to liaise with your nearest US embassy or consulate in relation to any rejection of application, no reason needs to be legally given. If your ESTA visa waiver application has been rejected, you must seek a non-immigration visa in the traditional manner.

If you have any further questions regarding the Visa Waiver Program, or ESTA application process, visit our FAQs.