Visa Waiver Program

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program allows the citizens of specific countries to travel to the United States for the purposes of tourism or business for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa.

Who is eligible?
  • One must be a citizen of one of the following countries: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Greenland, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, Bonaire, Curacao, Saba, Saint Eustatius, Sint Maatren, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Brunei, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand (Poland is currently pending, but has not yet been added to the list);
  • Travelers must be approved through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). ESTA is an automated system that is used to determine eligibility. One must also have paid all applications or renewal fees. ESTA authorizations are generally valid for up to two years.
  • Visa Waiver Program passports must be electronic passports (also known as e-passports) and a machine-readable passport.
  • The purpose for travel must be for tourism or business for 90 days or less.

Travelers who do not meet the above requirements must apply for an appropriate visa. Moreover, there are certain criteria whereby a visa by law must be requested, such as in the following:

  • The traveler expresses the desire to remain in the United States past 90 days, or expects that once in the U.S., they may want to change visa status
  • The traveler is coming into the United States to work or study, or is part of the foreign media, or intends to immigrate to the U.S.
  • The traveler intends to enter the United States via private aircraft of other air or sea carriers that have not been approved under the Visa Waiver Program.
  • The traveler is ineligible for a visa.
  • The traveler has been refused entrance into the United States previously, or failed to comply with previous Visa Waiver Program admissions.
If denied a visa, can a traveler enter the U.S. through the Visa Waiver Program?

Travelers who desire to come to the United States who have been denied a visa may not meet the ESTA eligibility requirements. The Visa Waiver Program is not intended as a way of bypassing eligibility to enter the United States, but rather to provide a more efficient means for people who are eligible to bypass acquiring visas for trips to the U.S. that are 90 days or less. On the other hand, if one fails to meet the ESTA eligibility requirements for the Visa Waiver Program, one may apply for an appropriate visa.

The Visa Waiver Program helps to facilitate short-term tourism and business trips to the United States by visitors who are citizens of approved countries. This helps the Department of State to focus on higher risk entries into the United States. Citizens of the specific countries listed can travel to the U.S. for a 90 days or less period as tourists or for short-term business purposes without having to obtain a specific visa to do so.


There are a number of procedural and material requirements for Visa Waiver applicants to obtain immigration benefits, and navigating through the process can be very daunting and time-consuming. For this reason, it is advisable to obtain the advice and assistance of a qualified immigration law attorney to handle the matter.

Austin, Texas immigration attorney Daniella Lyttle of the Lyttle Law Firm has experience assisting individuals in Visa Waiver issues. Ms. Lyttle is fluent in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian, and can communicate directly with clients and their family members directly in these languages, as well as understand documents in these languages.

Furthermore, because immigration law is a federal, and not state, matter, the Lyttle Law Firm can assist you even if you are not a resident of Texas. If you need a competent immigration attorney to handle your Visa Waiver matter, contact the Lyttle Law Firm, and you will be able to speak to a qualified immigration attorney to get the advice and assistance you need. An Austin immigration lawyer experienced in all aspects of Visa Waivers can make the process more manageable, as well as provide relevant context pertaining to how the matter is proceeding and what you can reasonably expect in terms of both time frame and success in obtaining the desired immigration benefit.