Visa Waiver Program

Under US immigration law, the visa waiver program (known in English as the Visa Waiver Program – VWP) is not really a VISA. Those who wish to travel to the United States and belong to one of the 38 eligible countries, whether for business or pleasure, can stay up to 90 days in the United States without a visa. However, it is necessary to fulfill the requirements of the visa waiver program.

Note that the WMP does not provide for the possibility of extending or changing the immigration status of the traveler and 3 months (90 days) after the entry date, after this period you are required to leave the United States .

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP), therefore, is a program that allows travelers from countries included to visit the United States of America without the requirement to obtain a visa prior to departure Official at the American Embassy or Consulate.

What are the requirements for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

To enter the United States through the VWP, you must meet the following conditions:

The purpose of the trip must be similar to that of a type of visa “B”

The Visa Exemption Program (VWP) allows travelers from countries included to travel to the United States without a visa. The stay can not exceed 90 days, and the purpose of the visit may be tourism or business. Even if you are in transit to the United States with a final destination outside of the United States, you must get a travel authorization before boarding. Here is a list of authorized activities when traveling through the VWP:


Participate in meetings with colleagues.

Attend events, conventions or conferences for scientific, educational or professional purposes.

To register for short-term training courses (you must not receive any compensation from the US-based company, other than reimbursement of travel expenses).

Conduct negotiations or sign contracts.

For more information on a business trip to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program or on a tourist visa, visit our


Travel, tour, or any tourist activity, whether you are traveling alone or with friends, family and / or other travelers.

Medical care.

Participation in social activities organized by social or service organizations.

Participation in an amateur level in musical, sports or related activities, as long as you are not paid for your participation.

Enrollment in short courses and / or study, provided that they do not give credits for a university degree (an example of what might be possible: a two-day cooking class in which you participate during the holidays) .

To learn more about the types of visas for the United States, tourist, business or other visas, see our ESTA FAQs

What is not permitted during your visit to the United States if you are traveling under the Exemption Program (VWP)?

Here are some activities not authorized by the VWP and for which you must apply for a visa before traveling to the United States:

Participate in programs of study that provide credits for a university degree.

Job search.

To practice the profession of foreign journalist, or a company related to radio or a film, or any other type of exchange of information with other countries.

Look for an immigration status that would allow a permanent stay in the United States.?

Who can apply online for permission to enter the United States under the VWP? These are the countries participating in the program.

To be able to take advantage of the VWP (visa waiver program), you must be a national of one of the 38 countries participating in the program. These are listed below:

A) Andorra, Australia, Austria, Germany B) Belgium, Brunei C) Chile, South Korea D) Denmark E) Spain, Estonia F) Finland, France G) Greece H) Holland, (L) Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg M) Malta, Monaco N) New Zealand, Norway P) Portugal R) United Kingdom S) San Marino, Singapore, Sweden, Switzerland, Slovakia, Slovenia T) Czech republic.

How to use the VWP (travel without a visa)? You need an ESTA

The visa waiver program is an immigration agreement between the United States and the 38 countries cited above. It is a rationalization of the immigration system. The agreement provides that a traveler from one of the 38 countries may apply for an online permit to travel to the United States.

The system set up will search for the candidate in his database, and the result of this search will determine the candidate’s eligibility.

This authorization is called ESTA (which stands for electronic travel authorization system). Visit the website for more details, to apply for ESTA and pay the required fees.

The airline or cruise must be recognized and approved

If you are arriving by air or by sea, the VWP requires that your airline or cruise line be among those recognized by the US government. Your ticket can not be one way. Upon arrival in the United States, in fact, you must have a return ticket or go to another country, the date of exit of which is not more than 90 days after the date of entry, such as Provided for in the VWP.

You must have never violated the US immigration law and have never been refused a visa before your ESTA application

Assuming you have already traveled to the United States under the VWP or with an appropriate visa, it is essential that you meet the requirements for entry into the United States.

It is also necessary that in the past, if you applied for a visa at the US Embassy or Consulate, it has never been denied.

When you apply for an ESTA online, you waive the right to challenge the immigration officer’s final decision. In other words, although ESTA is mandatory for travel to the US, this does not guarantee entry. The final decision on acceptance of entry into the territory of the traveler in the United States depends on the Immigration Officer who performs routine checks upon arrival in the United States. In practice an ESTA approval provides 99.9% chance of entering the United States. Entry rejections by agents only occur if something has changed in the database between the time of granting your ESTA and the entry into the United States.

What is a machine readable and electronic passport?

Standards and requirements for electronic and machine-readable passports are set by international civil aviation, also known as ICAO. Let’s see what these standards and requirements are:

Machine readable passport

A machine-readable passport contains personal data on the data page. This data is read automatically when the passport is scanned on arrival in the United States (usually from the airport). Here is a picture of a machine readable passport: If you do not know whether your passport is machine readable or not, it is suggested that you contact the office where the passport was issued.

Electronic Passport

References and personal identity are integrated into a chip in the passport. This data includes the two characteristic lines of machine readable passports, as well as a facial image. This chip is scanned to identify the traveler’s passport. The electronic passport is easily identifiable. In fact, on its cover is an internationally recognized symbol. Here is a photo of e-passport:

Emergency or temporary passports

If you are in an emergency or in possession of a temporary passport, and are about to enter the United States through the VWP, the passports must be electronic. This is also true for travelers in transit to a destination other than the United States.

VWP is not the only option. You can apply for a “B” visa

Although eligible for the VWP, if you prefer, you can apply for a “B” visa. If you do not meet all the requirements stated on this website you must apply for a “B” visa. If you arrive in the United States with an unrecognized airline or marine (private plane, etc.), you must obtain a visa. We invite you to consult the list of companies approved by the US government.

Can I take advantage of the VWP if in the past I have been denied a visa?

If you are in the situation described in the title of this question, we recommend that you apply for a visa at the nearest American embassy or consulate. Otherwise, you may experience one of the following disadvantages:

The rejection of the ESTA application

A detailed examination of travel documents at the entrance of the United States

And / or the refusal of entry into the United States, and therefore forced repatriation

Within the VWP, can we visit Canada, Mexico or neighboring islands?

If you are going to the United States under the VWP, you can visit for a short stay Canada, Mexico or an island near the United States. When you are back on US soil you will be readmitted with your ESTA, provided it complies with VWP requirements. The 90-day limit, the maximum duration allowed by the VWP, also includes these short stays.

What are the criteria for a country to be included in the VWP?

For a country to be included in the migration treaty known as the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), it must meet several requirements, such as:

Provide a partnership with the United States in the application of the law at the national and international level:

  • Issuance of electronic passports.
  • The percentage of visa refusal type “B” must be less than 3%.
  • Timely communication in case of lost or stolen passports.
  • Strict enforcement of anti-terrorism laws, national laws and border control.
  • Maintain a high level of security against counterfeiting of identity documents.