The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor [B] visa purposes only) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established to eliminate unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Nationals of VWP countries must meet eligibility requirements to travel without a visa on VWP, and therefore, some travelers from VWP countries are not eligible to use the program. VWP travelers are required to have a valid authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel, are screened at the port of entry into the United States, and are enrolled in the Department of Homeland Security’s US-VISIT program.
If you are a national of a Country on the US visa waiver scheme you will from 8 September 2010 have to pay a fee of $14 under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). From January 2009 everyone entering the US under the visa waiver scheme needs to apply under ESTA. So far there has been no fee for applying under ESTA.
ESTA takes up to 72 hours (3 days) to process and is valid for up to two years. So you should make sure that you leave enough time for the processing of your application. If you are thinking of visiting the US in the next two years and are a national of a visa waiver Country you should consider applying now and so avoid the new fee.
The visa waiver scheme remains a relatively straightforward option if you wish to visit the US for up to ninety days for business or pleasure. It is much easier to obtain than a full visit visa application made at the local US Embassy or Consulate.
The new $14 fee will be used for the following purposes:
* $10 for Travel promotion under the Travel Promotions Act (TPA)
* $4 to pay for the cost of administering ESTA.
Nationals of VWP countries must meet the guidelines listed in the section above in order to seek admission to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. Travelers who do not meet these guidelines must apply for a visa.
A US visa must be requested from the VWP Countries applicants, if the traveler:
* Wants to remain in the United States for longer than 90 days, or envisions that they may wish to change their status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the United States;
* Wants to work or study in the United States, travel as a working foreign media representative, come to the United States for other purposes not allowed on a visitor visa, or intends to immigrate to the United States;
* Is a national of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, the Republic of Korea, or the Slovak Republic AND DOES NOT HAVE an electronic passport with an integrated chip;
* Is a national of one of the VWP countries not listed above AND DOES NOT have a machine-readable passport (MRP)(depending on the date the MRP was issued, renewed, or extended, it may also need to contain a digital photograph or an integrated electronic chip);
* Intends to travel by private aircraft or other non-VWP approved air or sea carriers to the United States. Click here to see the approved carriers list;
* Has a criminal record or other condition making them ineligible for a visa (see Classes of Aliens Ineligible for Visas).
* Has been refused admission to the United States before, or did not comply with the conditions of previous VWP admissions (90 days or less stay for tourism or business, etc.).