The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is available for foreign nationals of specific countries who intend to visit the U.S. for tourism, business, or training. The VWP allows eligible foreign nationals to enter the U.S. without first going to a U.S. consulate to obtain a visitor visa. A list of eligible countries is provided by the U.S. Department of State (DOS).
After applying online for travel authorization, a visitor from one of these countries can simply board a plane to the U.S., complete an immigration card during the flight, and explain the purpose of his or her visit to the U.S. immigration inspector upon arrival. If the immigration officer is satisfied with the purpose, the visitor is admitted for a maximum of 90 days. Foreign nationals who enter the U.S. in the VWP are not eligible for extensions of stay.
Applications for travel authorization under the VWP are filed through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) website.
The applicant is required to provide information which is compared to information on U.S. government databases. The applicant will receive an automated response either approving or denying travel authorization. If the application is approved, the travel authorization is valid for 2 years or until the applicant’s passport expires.
If the application is not approved, the applicant will not be permitted to use this program, but can apply for the B-1 (business) or B-2 (tourist) visa.