The Visa Waiver Program allows certain citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without a visa. Visa Waiver Program countries include many European countries, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Singapore, and Japan. To be eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, a foreign national from one of the 38 designated countries must meet the following general requirements:
- possess an e-Passport (i.e., an enhanced secure passport with an embedded chip containing the individual’s biographic information);
- have applied for and received advance authorization through DHS’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel;
- have not traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited diplomatic or military exceptions); and
- not be a dual national of a Visa Waiver Program country and Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
The new restrictions on a Visa Waiver Program 12/15/2017: no implementation timeline was announced yet.
(1) Visa Waiver Program countries must begin utilizing U.S. counterterrorism information to screen all travelers entering those countries from elsewhere.
(2) Airports in eligible countries must also utilize the same U.S. data to screen their own employees as a means of safeguarding the United States against threats by foreign airport workers.
(3) DHS will focus on limiting the number of Visa Wavier Program travelers who overstay their maximum-allowed 90-day admission period. DHS will attempt to force countries with overstay rates of 2 percent or greater to conduct public awareness campaigns for their citizens, to educate them not to overstay, not to work without a work authorization, and about the penalties (unable to change status, adjust status, ban on future travel to USA). According to DHS data for FY 2016, only four countries out of 38 Visa Waiver countries currently meet the 2 percent threshold: Hungary, Greece, Portugal, and San Marino.