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Visa Waiver Program Miami – Everything You Need to Know

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries

The United States implemented a new immigration law involving 36 countries to promote national tourism. Now, 40 nations are eligible.

It came into force in 1986 as part of the options that the Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers to foreign individuals who want to visit American territory. Here’s more information about it.

Understanding the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Overseen by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the State Department, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens from other countries to travel to the US for business or tourism.

Foreign citizens who can visit the US through the VWP can stay for up to 90 days without a visa. As part of the agreement with the other countries, those 40 nations must authorize US individuals to travel to their territory for the same period without a visa for business and tourism purposes.

Individuals who want to apply for the Visa Waiver Program must meet the eligibility requirements to travel without a visa. Those who want to stay for more than 90 days in the country must apply to obtain this document.

Who Should Apply?

The following individuals may be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program:

  • Citizens of eligible foreign countries
  • People who do not have a visitor’s visa
  • Individuals planning to travel to the US for business or pleasure
  • Foreign citizens who plan to visit the US for 90 days or less
  • People who want to apply for a new authorization for one individual or several applications for two or more individuals

Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries

As mentioned, 40 countries are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program. These are:

  1. Andorra
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Belgium
  5. Brunei
  6. Chile
  7. Croatia
  8. Czech Republic
  9. Denmark
  10. Estonia
  11. Finland
  12. France
  13. Germany
  14. Greece
  15. Hungary
  16. Iceland
  17. Ireland
  18. Italy
  19. Japan
  20. Korea, Republic of
  21. Latvia
  22. Liechtenstein
  23. Lithuania
  24. Luxembourg
  25. Malta
  26. Monaco
  27. Netherlands
  28. New Zealand
  29. Norway
  30. Poland
  31. Portugal
  32. San Marino
  33. Singapore
  34. Slovakia
  35. Slovenia
  36. Spain
  37. Sweden
  38. Switzerland
  39. Taiwan
  40. United Kingdom

The Taiwan Relations Act of 1979 establishes that when the laws of the United States refer to foreign countries, states, nations, governments, or similar entities, such terms and regulations shall apply to Taiwan.

However, the US Customs and Border Protection (CPB) recently announced that several categories are no longer eligible to travel to the country under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). These are:

  • People from VWP countries who are also nationals of North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan
  • Individuals from VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in North Korea, Libya, Sudan, Suria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, and Somalia on or after March 1, 2011, unless their trip is for diplomatic or military purposes and they’re serving a VWP country
  • Citizens of a few new countries, including Bonaire, Curacao, St Eustatius, Saba, and St Maarten, if applying for admission with passports from such nations

Key Considerations About the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

Visa Waiver Program

Many foreign citizens can benefit from the Visa Waiver Program. However, applicants should consider the following:

  • Individuals traveling to the US under the Visa Waiver Program can only stay in the country for three months without extensions.
  • In order to extend this period, travelers must apply for a visa as set by the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.
  • People who visit American territory under the Visa Waiver program can remain in the country for the period allowed as tourists. Travelers cannot change their employment or immigration status within this period.
  • Individuals who enter the US under the Visa Waiver Program but commit fraud may be deported to their country of origin.

Requirements for the Visa Waiver Program

People who want to apply for the Visa Waiver Program to visit the US must meet the following requirements:

  • Have a valid passport from a VWP country
  • Apply only for tourism or business trips
  • Show evidence that they’re entering the US for tourism or business purposes
  • Prove that they’ll only stay in the country for three months
  • Demonstrate that they don’t have a criminal record

As mentioned, travel under the Visa Waiver Program is restricted to those who hold passports with specific security features. In this regard, these are the requirements for this document:

  • Passports must have a machine-readable zone on the biographic page.
  • It should be an electronic passport with a digital chip containing the holder’s biometric information.

Additionally, all individuals traveling on or after April 1, 2016, must have an e-passport issued by an official authority. This document must meet international standards for storing and securing information.

Eligible citizens of foreign countries who expect to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program must also apply and obtain approval through ESTA before their trip.

What Does ESTA Stand For?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It’s a fully automated, electronic, and online system used by the US government to determine the eligibility of visitors from VWP countries.

The ESTA application collects the foreign citizen’s biographical, passport, and eligibility information. It determines if they meet the requirements for traveling under the program. If approved, the authorization is valid for two years or until the traveler’s passport expires, whichever comes first.

How Can People Get the Visa Waiver/ESTA Visa?

To apply for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and obtain an approved ESTA authorization, foreign citizens must follow these steps:

  1. Travelers should determine if their country is eligible for the program. In addition, they must have a valid electronic passport. Those who have been previously denied a US visa or entry to American territory may not be eligible.
  2. After determining eligibility, travelers must apply for ESTA authorization online through the CBP website.
  3. After submitting their biographical, passport, and eligibility information, applicants should pay a fee.
  4. Travelers will be notified about their application status after this step.
  5. With an approved ESTA authorization, foreign citizens can travel to the US by air or sea.
  6. Upon arrival, travelers must show their passports and ESTA authorization. Additionally, they must attend an interview with a CBP officer and undergo any necessary security screenings before admission.

However, an approved ESTA authorization doesn’t guarantee entry to the US. CBP officers can deny entry to anyone if they believe they’re ineligible or pose a security risk.

When Should People Apply for a Nonimmigrant Visa?

Even if they’re from a VWP country, foreign citizens aren’t eligible for the program and must apply for another US visa in the following cases:

  • Have been denied entry into the country
  • Have a criminal record with an offense
  • Don’t comply with US immigration laws
  • Have information that may affect the national population’s health in their medical history
  • Plan to study or work in the US

Working with an Immigration Lawyer in Miami

Individuals planning to travel to the US under the Visa Waiver Program must submit many documents and meet strict eligibility requirements. Therefore, they should seek help from an experienced attorney to streamline the process and get the guidance they need for approval.

An immigration attorney can help applicants verify all the information to determine if they qualify for the program, collect the required documentation, rehearse for the interview, and more.

Do you need help from an experienced lawyer? Contact our experts at today!