The term "Visa Waiver Countries" has become well-known in recent years as the United States makes international travel more convenient. In 1986, the U.S. Department of State instituted the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in an effort to boost tourism in the United States. Today, the VWP allows citizens of 35 participating countries to travel to the Unites States without a . This is certainly an advantage for those who wish to visit for a short duration, as the visa application process can be expensive and time consuming.
The VWP is governed by The U.S. Department of State and the Secretary of Homeland Security; they are the ruling parties when it comes to the countries that are authorized under this program. They deem a nation eligible or ineligible based on certain factors, such as that country's economy and the risk of its citizens overstaying or working illegally in the United States.
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The list of participating countries continues to change as nations are added and removed from the list. Argentina and Uruguay, for example, were recently revoked from the program, and Croatia is likely to be added by 2011.
The current participating VWP countries include: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Brunei, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom. Most recently, Estonia, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malta, Latvia, South Korea, and the Slovak Republic were added to the list. These countries must in turn offer United States Citizens visa-free travel under the same regulations.
To be eligible for travel under the VWP, travelers who are citizens (not permanent residents) of the above mentioned countries must meet certain qualifications. First, they must be authorized by the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This is a quick and easy application that can be filled out and submitted online. Next, they must obtain a valid "machine-readable" passport, which does not expire for at least 90 days after the end of their stay.
Additionally, all travelers must arrive on one of the U.S. Department of State's list of "approved carriers" and must prove that they can support themselves financially during their stay. If these conditions are met, most travelers from the participating countries will be able to travel to the United States without a visa.
Upon arrival into the United States, all travelers using the VWP must fill out and sign an I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver form and present it to a U.S. Customs agent, where they will be interviewed at their point of entry into the United States. The purpose of their visit must be for business or tourism, and they must leave the country no later than 90 days after their arrival date.
The Visa Waiver Program has been a great reciprocal tool for all of the Visa Waiver countries, including the United States. Individuals, corporations, and the world economy are certainly reaping the benefits of hassle-free travel.
Visit often to learn more information from our updated Visa Waiver Countries.