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

At this time of the year, many people are busy finalizing their travel plans for the upcoming summer months, perhaps mapping out a road trip to the Grand Canyon or booking both plane tickets to see some of the sights on the East Coast.

It's important to understand that the many landmarks and national parks scattered throughout the U.S. have universal appeal, meaning it's not just residents of the 50 states that want to see them, but residents of the foreign nations as well.

In understanding of this reality -- and the fact that international travel generates significant revenue -- the U.S. has long had a system in place to facilitate both tourist and even business travel from 38 countries.   

The Visa Waiver Program, or VWP, allows citizens of these 38 countries -- the majority of which are European nations -- to travel to the U.S. for stays of 90 days or less for either tourism or business purposes without securing a visa beforehand.

However, it's not enough that an individual is a citizen of one of these countries. Indeed, those looking to capitalize upon the VWP must satisfy a host of requirements.

Travel purpose

As we stated above, the VWP is only meant for tourism or business travel. As you might imagine, this can mean a variety of things.

The following types of tourist activities are permissible while visiting the U.S. under the VWP:

  • Sightseeing/vacation/visits with friends and family
  • Medical treatment
  • Amateur participation (i.e., no payment) in sports, musical or similar contests or events
  • Participation in social events organized by social, service or fraternal groups
  • Participation in short-term recreational study (i.e., not for academic credit)

The following types of business activities are permissible while visiting the U.S. under the VWP:

  • Attendance of a conference/convention for educational, scientific, business or professional purposes
  • Consultation with business associates
  • Contract negotiation

As for impermissible activities while visiting the U.S. under the VWP, this could include employment, academic coursework for credit, or work as a foreign journalist, to name only a few.

We'll continue discussing this important topic in future posts, including more about these requirements, B visas and some of the recent amendments to the VWP.

If you would like to learn more about the VWP or any other type of visa, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional.

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