US Visas, the Visa Waiver Program, and Travel Authorization via ESTA
Citizens of foreign countries seeking to enter the United States need to have a valid US visa in their passport. Alternatively, certain international travelers are eligible to enter the United States without a visa using the Visa Waiver Prgram (VWP). Please see the section below to learn more about the VWP and the accompanying ESTA application.
Obtaining a US Visa
US visa application steps vary depending on the country-of-residence. Please consult the US Embassy or Consulate nearest you in order to determine the appropriate steps to receive your visa. The visa application process can be lengthy so we encourage you to start as early as feasible. To learn more about the visa application process, please visit the US Department of State's visa website.
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Using the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables elgibile citizens or nationals of designated countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without first obtaining a US visa. Travelers using the VWP must complete an ESTA application (see below) before boarding a United States-bound aircraft carrier. Citizens of the following countries are currently eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP:
|Czech Republic||Liechtenstein||South Korea|
Recent changes to the VWP
As of December 2015, policy changes were announced in the United States stating that travelers who have entered Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after 01 March 2011 are not eligible to use the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and must obtain a US visa before entering the country, even if they are a citizen of a VWP country.
For more details on visa waivers, please visit the FAQ page for the VWP.
Processing an ESTA Application
All travelers seeking to enter the United States via the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) must also apply for travel authorization by submitting an ESTA application online. Successful ESTA application qualifies travelers to enter the United States for both business and leisure for less than 90 days. If you already have a US Visa, you do not need an ESTA.
What do I need to process the ESTA?
- Valid passport from a Visa Waiver Program country.
- Valid credit card (MasterCard, VISA, American Express, and Discover (JCB, Diners Club)) to pay US $14 per application.
- Your contact information.
- Your most recent employment information, if applicable.
How far in advance is it necessary to apply for travel authorization through ESTA?
ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP. In most cases, ESTA provides an almost immediate determination of eligibility for travel. However, travelers are encouraged to submit ESTA applications through the ESTA website as soon as the traveler begins to plan a visit to the United States. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA, but if the information is available applicants are encouraged to provide their destination addresses and itineraries. Each approved ESTA application generally is valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first. A new travel authorization is required if: (1) the traveler is issued a new passport; (2) the traveler changes his or her name; (3) the traveler changes his or her gender; (4) the traveler’s country of citizenship changes; or (5) the circumstances underlying the traveler’s previous responses to any of the ESTA application questions requiring a “yes” or “no” response have changed. The associated fee will be charged for each new application submitted.
For more details about ESTA, or to apply, please visit the travel authorization website.
Content cited from the US Department of Homeland Security and the US Department of State.
Last Updated 24 January 2018