The visa system in the US is much more complicated than what many expect. Even if tourists from all around the world talk about the difficulties they had, it is still not common to see travelers know much about the available options.
The good news is there are various possibilities available for everyone that wants to enter the country. One of them is the Visa Waiver Program, which is really popular for both tourists and businessmen interested in staying in the country for a short time frame. If this is your case, here are some things you should know.
You can only travel through VWP (Visa Waiver Program) if you are interested in business or tourism. Journalism or employment is not permitted. There is a limit of ninety days of stay that are allowed. This is not a limit that can be reset or extended. Even when traveling through the US for transit reasons you have to know about this visa.
This program was implemented in 2015 and put in some strict restrictions. If you are a citizen of a country where VWP applies but you are also a citizen of Iran, Sudan, Syria or Iraq, you are not allowed to use the program. At the same time, if you travelled to a number of countries you will not be eligible for VWP travel and a visa application becomes necessary.
When you want to enter the country through VWP you need to apply for an ESTA authorization. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization and is a system that relies on online approval before flying to the US. ESTA approval costs $14 and is valid for up to 2 years or until the passport expire.
Starting April 1 2016 all VWP travel is restricted to biometric passports (commonly referred to as e-passports). The local government of the citizen traveling to US needs to issue the biometric passport.
When you enter the US via sea or air, an onward/return ticket is needed. If this is a ticket that terminates in a Caribbean island, Bermuda, Mexico or Canada, you need to be a legal territory resident. Land travel brings in a fee of $7 as you cross. ESTA application is done through the official website and is necessary before the trip starts. Regular applications are approved close to instantly but a waiting period of up to 72 hours may apply.
Things Of Interest
Besides citizenship, the one factor that stops potential travel is a criminal record. Exceptions do apply though, including:
• Traffic violations that are minor – DUI and DWI are excluded.
• Political offenses – should be checked with the US embassy.
• Civil infractions like noise violation or littering.
• Offenses done before 16 years old (exceptions apply).
When you use this waiver program you need to know that restrictions and disadvantages do appear. You will not be allowed to extend your stay and status change cannot be done while in the US. When you are denied entry, you cannot appeal the decision and you are put back on the very first flight out of the country.