This article is reviewed regularly by Wego’s editorial team to ensure that the content is up to date & accurate.
Reviewed November 2023
Thanks to the USA Visa Waiver Program (VWP), residents of participating countries are eligible to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without a visa. Prior to travel, travellers are required to have a current Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) permission and fulfil the conditions outlined below.
Table of Contents
USA Visa Waiver news & updates
The US Department of State has recently announced an extension of in-person interview waivers for certain non-immigrant visa applicants, including for some international students, until December 31, 2023.
These categories of visas are for Temporary Agricultural and Non-Agricultural Workers (H-2 visas), Students (F and M visas), and Academic Exchange Visitors (academic J visas), and certain beneficiaries of approved individual petitions for nonimmigrant temporary worker visas in the following categories: Persons in Specialty Occupations (H-1B visas), Trainee or Special Education Visitors (H-3 visas), Intracompany Transferees (L visas), Individuals with Extraordinary Ability or Achievement (O visas), Athletes, Artists, and Entertainers (P visas), and Participants in International Cultural Exchange Programs (Q visas); and qualifying derivatives.
These waivers are authorized by a determination of the Secretary of State with the concurrence of the Department of Homeland Security. Embassies and consulates may still require an in-person interview on a case-by-case basis and dependent upon local conditions.
We encourage applicants to check embassy and consulate websites for more detailed information about this development, as well as current operating status and services. For more information, visit the Bureau of Consular affairs travel site.
USA Visa Waiver Program countries list
The Visa Waiver Program is the United States federal government program that allows nationals of specific countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business, or to transit for up to 90 days without having to obtain a visa.
There are currently 40 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program:
- Czech Republic
- New Zealand
- San Marino
- South Korea
- United Kingdom
Please note: To be eligible to travel under the VWP, British citizens must have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man.
USA Visa Waiver Program general requirements
As part of the admission procedure, you must present legitimate travel documents when you arrive in the United States. Depending on the nation you are travelling from and your citizenship, or status, you may require additional documents and a passport that is valid for at least six months after your travel dates.
Before entering the United States, visitors from abroad must receive the full COVID-19 vaccination.
Applicants for the USA Visa Waiver Program must meet the following requirements:
- Be a citizen of one of the countries listed above, and in possession of a VWP-compliant passport;
- Possess the ESTA authorization;
- Stay in the United States for 90 days or less; and,
- Plan to travel for:
- Business- The purpose for your planned travel is to consult with business associates: travel for a scientific, educational, professional or business convention, or conference on specific dates; settle an estate; or negotiate a contract.
- Pleasure/Tourism- The purpose of your planned travel is recreational in nature, including tourism, vacation (holiday), amusement, visits with friends or relatives, rest, medical treatment; activities of a fraternal, social, or service nature; and participation by amateurs, who will receive no remuneration, in musical, sports and similar events or contests.
- Transit- If you are traveling through the United States.
The Visa Waiver Program is only available to people who have passports that have a specific set of security features.
- The passport must have a machine-readable zone on the biographic page.
- The passport must be an electronic passport with a digital chip containing biometric information about the passport owner.
All nations participating in the Visa Waiver Program are required to present passports with a digital photo printed on the data page.
An image from a digital camera is printed on the page as opposed to being adhered or laminated to the passport.
If the applicants can’t fulfil this requirement, they will need to apply for a visa to visit the United States.
Apply for ESTA authorization
In order to obtain ESTA authorization, please refer to this site.
When seeking the authorization, you will have to apply for the following documents:
- Valid passport(s) from a Visa Waiver Program country.
- Traveler’s valid email address.
- Traveler’s home address and phone number.
- Traveler’s emergency point of contact phone and email.
Each accepted ESTA application typically has a two-year validity period, allowing repeated travels to the US during that time without requiring another ESTA permission. Passengers whose passports expire in less than two years will be issued an ESTA that is valid until the expiration date of their passport.
ESTA status check
Go to ESTA homepage, select Check ESTA Status, then click on Check Individual Status. You will need to enter either your:
- Passport number
- Date of birth
- Application number
Or you can enter your:
- Country of citizenship
- Passport issuance date
- Passport expiration date.
Go to the ESTA homepage, select “Check ESTA Status”, and then click “Check Group Status”. You will need to enter
- Group ID
- Family name
- First (given) name
- Email address
- Date of birth
- Group point of contact. If you do not know the Group ID, select the link “I do not know my Group ID” to retrieve your Group ID.
ESTA processing time
The processing of an ESTA can take up to 72 hours. It is also advisable to check the status of an already approved ESTA in advance of traveling to make sure that it is still valid.
USA Visa Waiver Program application process
- Make sure your country is included in the VWP countries list
- You must have an e-Passport to use the VWP. This type of passport is also known as an electronic passport and has an embedded chip in it.
- Fill out the ESTA online application. ESTA determines the eligibility of a visitor to travel to the U.S. under the VWP.
- Pay $21 for the application fee.
- When you fill out your application, you will get an ESTA application number. Use this number to check the status of your application and if it has been accepted to travel to the U.S.
USA Visa Waiver Program validity
There is no limit on the number of times you may enter the US under either ESTA or a visa. However, if you are re-entering the U.S. using ESTA soon after staying for nearly 90 days, you can expect to be questioned in detail by the immigration officer about the purpose of your visit.
USA Visa Waiver Program extension
Normally, the Visa Waiver Program does not permit anyone to extend their time in the country (VWP).
With very few exceptions, VWP visitors cannot change their status (request for a green card) or prolong their status.
USA Visa Waiver Program cost
The Fee for application is USD 21. You can pay with MasterCard, VISA, American Express, Discover (JCB or Diners Club only), or PayPal.