Do I need a visa to travel to the United States?
Usually, when you travel to the United States, you will need a visa to enter. However, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows people from certain countries to travel to the United States without a US visa. To be eligible, you must be visiting for 90 days or less as a nonimmigrant visitor for business or pleasure (tourism). The visa waiver program started in 1986 as a pilot program, but became permanent in 2000.
VWP travelers must be nationals of one of the 35 participating countries (listed below) and;
1. Valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel. ESTA determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the US by collecting the same information as the I-94 arrival-departure record. The application can be submitted at any time before the trip. It is usually valid for up to two years and can be used for multiple entries into the US. In addition, you must have a passport valid for 6 months beyond the period of intended stay, 90 days. Therefore, your passport must be valid for 9 months. The purpose of your stay must be 90 days or less and the reason for your visit must be tourism or business. If you are arriving by air or sea, you must have a return ticket. You must also be able to prove that your intent to stay is 90 days or less and that you have sufficient funds to support yourself while in the US. You must also be found not to pose a threat to the security of the United States and have no prior violations of any admissions policy. Finally, you must waive your right to proceedings before an immigration judge, except for an asylum application.
2. Inspected at a United States port of entry;
3. Enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US Visit Program.
The following countries participate in the visa waiver program:
Andorra Hungary New Zealand
Australia Iceland Norway
Austria Ireland Portugal
Belgium Italy San Marino
Brunei Japan Singapore
Czech Republic Latvia Slovakia
Denmark Liechtenstein Slovenia
Estonia Lithuania South Korea
Finland Luxembourg Spain
France Malta Sweden
Germany Monaco Switzerland
Greece Netherlands United Kingdom
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the visa waiver program?
Those using the Visa Waiver Program are allowed to travel to the US spontaneously without obtaining a visa for tourism or business purposes. On the other hand, those using the VWP cannot change or extend their nonimmigrant status. Also, if you are denied admission, you will not have the opportunity to go before an immigration judge to challenge your inadmissibility. Finally, you cannot enter under the VWP if you are found to have previously violated the conditions of admission. That’s why you should consult with an experienced Phoenix immigration attorney to determine if you should use the Visa Waiver Program.
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