International Travel Made Easy With the Visa Waiver ProgramUpdated January 21, 2016 Visas
To make travel between the United States and certain selected countries easier, the United States created the Visa Waiver Program. In it’s most basic terms, the Visa Waiver Program is an agreement that allows streamlined travel between the United States and 38 highly developed, high-income countries.
No visa is required by citizens of participating countries when visiting the U.S. for tourism or business travel for up to 90 days. Travel applies to all 50 states as well as all U.S. territories such as the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program include:
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- Czech Republic
- South Korea
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- United Kingdom
Additional countries may be added to the list, as long as they pass a rigorous criteria and approval process. Countries may also be deleted from the list if U.S. officials deem that the country in question has violated terms of the Visa Waiver Program.
International travelers who want to travel to the U.S. must enroll in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, better known as ESTA.
ESTA is an automated tracking system that allows U.S. officials to determine the eligibility of travelers who intend to come through immigration checkpoints at airports and points of entry along United States borders. It is an extra layer documentation that allows the Department of Homeland Security to spot security risks prior to travel to the United States.
Applying for a new ESTA is a simple process that can be completed on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website. Applicants must complete the authorization form in English and be prepared to answer questions about criminal convictions, communicable diseases and any other visa issues resulting in deportation or the revocation of a visa.
Travelers should submit an ESTA application as soon as possible after they have decided to travel. Travelers don’t need to have specific travel plans to the United States when they complete the application.
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Applicants will need a valid passport from a participating country, a valid credit card to pay the $14 application fee and appropriate contact information. If you’re traveling with a group, the website allows up to 50 individuals to apply for an ESTA authorization at one time. Once approved ESTA authorizations are good for two years or until a traveler’s passport expires.