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How tourist, business travel to the U.S. is streamlined via the VWP - II

Last time, we began discussing how the Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, enables citizens of designated countries to travel to the U.S. for either tourism or business for 90 days or less without securing a visa beforehand.

We also started discussing how those looking to take advantage of the VWP must satisfy a host of requirements, including a permissible travel purpose. In today's post, we'll continue examining these requirements.

National or citizen of a VWP-participating country

In general, those who are either citizens or nationals of 38 countries -- the majority of which are European nations -- are eligible to participate in the VWP.

However, thanks to the recent passage of the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, the following parties may no longer participate in the VWP, and must secure a visitor visa at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy:

  • Nationals of VWP-participating countries who have been present in or traveled to Syria, Sudan, Iraq or Iran on or after March 1, 2011 (limited exceptions apply for diplomatic or military purposes)
  • Nationals of VWP-participating countries who are also nationals of Syria, Sudan, Iraq or Iran  

ESTA authorization

Those looking to travel through the VWP must secure approval via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization before boarding an air or sea carrier bound for the U.S.

The ESTA is the web-based system run by the Department of Homeland Security, and Customs and Border Protection that is designed to determine whether a particular individual should be cleared to travel to the U.S. without a visa.

Those who secure an approved ESTA should be aware that it merely allows them to travel to a port-of entry and request permission to enter the U.S. In other words, possession of an approved ESTA doesn't guarantee admission, as government officials always maintain the right to refuse admission.   

We'll continue discussing this topic in future posts, including more about these VWP requirements and B visas. In the meantime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional if you would like to learn more about the VWP or other types of visas.

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