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Who can Visit the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program?

If you are wishing to visit the U.S. for business or pleasure and are coming from one of the State Department's list of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, you may be able to obtain a visa waiver rather than needing to obtain a B-visa.

You may apply for a visa waiver if:

  • You come from an approved country which has agreements with the U.S. allowing for easy travel
  • You have not violated the terms of a visa in the past or have not become inadmissible
  • You do not wish to stay permanently in the U.S.

The premise of the VWP is simple—allow certain foreign nationals to visit the U.S. for 90 days, but the government has an easier time getting you to leave the country once those 90 days are up.

Exceptions exist for those having a medical emergency or those who fear persecution in their home country. Otherwise, those on the VWP are not able to request a change in non-immigrant status while in the country, unlike those with B-visas.

What do I need to do?

A major benefit of the VWP is that those planning to come to the U.S. do not need to visit a U.S. embassy or consulate beforehand. They will need to prepare in advance of their trip however.

You will need the following:

  • Valid passport from your home country
  • Pay all relevant fees
  • Return ticket to your home country or another foreign country
  • Authorization from the U.S. State department's Electronic System for Travel Authorization
  • Sufficient evidence that you have the money to support yourself without taking a U.S. job

You will also fill out an I-94W form before arriving to determine if you are inadmissible to the U.S. At the U.S. border, a Customs and Border Patrol officer will look at your form and other documents and use this to check if you have overstayed past visas or have a criminal history via an electronic database.

Also unlike regular B-visa holders, if the officer determines you are inadmissible, you will need to return to your home country without a hearing or second opinion. At the same time, with the VWP you can come back to the U.S. anytime and request entry, while those with visas will need to wait five years to re-enter if they have been denied entry.

Consult with a Dallas immigration lawyer if you are considering the Visa Waiver Program and we can help determine if it is the right choice for your U.S. visit.

Categories: Immigration, Asylum
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