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Non-Immigrant Visa

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  • Oct 11, 2008
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Visa Waiver Program Overview - Frequently Asked Questions









Q: What Is the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
A: The VWP allows foreign nationals from certain countries to be admitted to the United States under limited conditions and for a limited time without obtaining a visa.










Q: What Laws Govern the VWP?
A: In 1986, the Immigration Reform and Control Act incorporated the Visa Waiver Pilot Program into the Immigration and Nationality Act. The program retained its pilot status until October 30, 2000, when the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act made the pilot program permanent with some modifications. Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides the legal authority for the VWP.









Q: How Does the VWP Work?
A: The VWP permits nationals from designated countries to apply for admission to the United States for 90 days or less as non-immigrant visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining a nonimmigrant visa. If the following requirements are met, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may designate a country as a participant in the program:



  • The country offers reciprocal travel privileges to United States citizens;
  • Nationals of the country have a low refusal rate for United States visas;
  • The country has certified that it has a machine-readable passport program;
  • The country will begin issuing a machine-readable passport to its citizens not later than October 26, 2004.
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, prepares a report evaluating the effect the country's designation would have on the United States' law enforcement and security interests; and
  • The Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, determines that the country's designation for the program would not compromise United States law enforcement or national security interests, including interests in enforcing immigration laws.








Q: What Countries Are in the VWP?
A: The following countries are currently in the program:

Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom*.

For citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may add countries to the program or remove them from the program at any time.

After May 15, 2003, citizens of Belgium must present a machine-readable passport in order to be granted admission under the VWP. This requirement also applies to citizens of Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.










Q: Who Is Eligible to Use the VWP?
A: To qualify for the VWP, you must:

  • Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less;
  • Have a passport lawfully issued to you by a VWP country that is valid for six months beyond your intended visit;
  • Be a national of the VWP country that issued your passport;
  • Have been checked using an automated electronic database containing information about inadmissible aliens to the United States;
  • Have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination other than a territory bordering on the United States or an adjacent island unless:



    1. You are a resident of an adjacent island,
    2. This requirement is waived by the Attorney General under regulations, or
    3. You are a visitor for business who arrives aboard a private aircraft that maintains a valid agreement guaranteeing to transport you out of the United States, if you are found to be inadmissible or deportable;


  • Present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer a completed and signed Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form. ( Visa Waiver Program Applicant Responsibilities )
  • Not pose a safety threat to the United States;
  • Not have failed to comply with the conditions of any previous admission under the Visa Waiver Program;
  • If arriving by air or sea, you must arrive aboard a carrier that signed an agreement, "signatory carrier", guaranteeing to transport you out of the United States if you are found to be inadmissible or deportable;
  • Convince the examining CBP officer that you are clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted and that you are not inadmissible under section 212 of the Act. For reasons that would make you inadmissible, please see the Immigration and Nationality Act at INA § 212 (a);
  • Waive any right to review or appeal a CBP officer's decision as to your admissibility, other than on the basis of an application for asylum or an application for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
  • Waive any right to challenge your removal, other than on the basis of an application for asylum or an application for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.








Q: What Is the Advantage of Using the VWP?
A: The advantage of entering the United States under the VWP is that tourists and people wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the United States spontaneously without obtaining visas, unless they are otherwise inadmissible.









Q: What Are the Disadvantages of Using the VWP?
A: If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may not change or extend your non-immigrant status. If your admission is denied, you have no right to administrative or judicial review, except as noted above. Likewise, if you are found to have violated the terms of your admission, you also forfeit the right to contest a removal order; therefore, before using the VWP, you should carefully consider your options.









Q: When Must I Obtain a Visa Instead of Using the VWP?
A: If you intend to arrive in the United States aboard a non-signatory air carrier, you must obtain a nonimmigrant visa prior to boarding the aircraft. Similarly, if you intend to visit the United States for more than 90 days, you must obtain a nonimmigrant visa before arriving in the United States. If you believe any grounds of inadmissibility at INA § 212(a) apply to you, you should apply for a nonimmigrant visa with Form OF-156 before traveling to the United States. You can obtain Form OF-156 from the American Embassy or consulate nearest your place of residence or the State Department Website. Although you may be inadmissible to the United States, you may qualify for a nonimmigrant visa and waiver, which will allow you to travel to the United States.









Q: How Can I Obtain Documents Needed To Use the VWP
A: You must contact the appropriate agency in your country of birth or nationality for information about obtaining a passport from that country.

Please see "How Do I Get an Arrival Departure Document?" for more information about Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form.










Q: How Do I Enter the United States Using the VWP?
A: You must satisfy the eligibility requirements as listed above in the question, "Who is eligible to use the VWP?", which includes arriving on a signatory air carrier. A listing of participating VWP carriers is maintained at FP&F, Attn: Immigration Fines, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20229, and is available upon request.


The VWP permits arrivals from Mexico and Canada at land border ports-of-entry (POEs). The documentary requirements are the same, except there is no requirement for round-trip tickets and signatory carriers, as there are no carriers involved. You must satisfy the inspecting officer that you have funds to support yourself during your stay and to depart the United States.

If you enter at a land POE you must complete and sign the Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form, usually issued in the secondary inspection station and pay the land border fee as prescribed in 8 CFR § 103.7(b)(1), you must also be admissible to the United States. For reasons that would make you inadmissible, please see the Immigration and Nationality Act at INA § 212(a).

Also note that after May 15, 2003, citizens of Belgium must present a machine-readable passport in order to be granted admission under the VWP. This requirement also applies to citizens of Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.










Q: Can a VWP applicant for Admission Be Readmitted To the United States Follwing a Short Trip To an Adjacent Island, Canada, or Mexico?
A:

  • Generally, VWP applicants admitted under the VWP may be readmitted to the United States after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands for the balance of their original admission period. This is provided they are otherwise admissible and meet all the conditions of the VWP, with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier, in which case the inspecting officers have the discretion to grant the applicants entirely new periods of admission.
  • The VWP applicant is admissible and may be readmitted to the United States under the VWP after a departure to Canada or Mexico or adjacent islands provided the person:



    1. Can identify an authorized period of admission that has not expired,
    2. Plans to depart the United States prior to the expiration date of their period of admission,
    3. Presents valid, unexpired passports which reflect admission to the United States under the VWP, and
    4. Continues to meet all criteria set forth in 8 CFR 217 and section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (Act), with the exception of arrival on a signatory carrier.








Q: What Islands Are Included Within the Meaning of Adjacent Islands?
A:

The term "adjacent islands" is defined in section 101(b)(5) of the Act and for the purposes of the VWP includes


  • Anguilla
  • Antigua
  • Aruba
  • Bahamas
  • Barbados
  • Barbuda
  • Bermuda
  • Bonaire
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Cayman Islands
  • Cuba
  • Curacao
  • Dominica
  • Dominican Republic
  • Grenada
  • Guadeloupe
  • Haiti
  • Jamaica
  • Marie-Galante
  • Martinique
  • Miquelon
  • Montserrat
  • Saba
  • Saint-Barthelemy
  • Saint Christopher
  • Saint Eustatius
  • Saint Kitts-Nevis
  • Saint Lucia
  • Saint Maarten
  • Saint Martin
  • Saint Pierre
  • Saint Vincent
  • Grenadines
  • Trinidad
  • Tobago
  • Turks and Caicos Islands
  • Other British, French and Netherlands territory or possessions bordering on the Caribbean Sea.








Q: Are Properly Documented Nationals from VWP Designated Countries Arriving on a Signatory Carrier Eligible to Transit to the United States?
A: Yes, provided they are admissible to the United States.









Q: What if a VWP Applicant is Found to be Inadmissible?
A: Generally, a VWP applicant found to be inadmissible by the inspecting officer is refused entry into the United States without further administrative hearing.









Q: Can Private Aircraft Participate in the VWP?
A: Private aircraft will not be eligible to participate in the VWP until the Secretary of Homeland Security publishes regulations pertaining to the administration of the VWP's carrier provisions, including private aircraft provisions. The Secretary of Homeland Security must also revise carrier agreements in order to collect information necessary to identify any domestic corporation that wishes to participate in the program. Presently, the Secretary of Homeland Security is drafting regulations and revising carrier agreements.

Once published and subject to any regulatory restrictions, the following private aircraft will be eligible to apply for participation in the VWP:



  1. Operators of aircraft conducting operations under part 135 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulations, and
  2. Operators of non-commercial aircraft that are owned or operated by a domestic corporation conducting operations under part 91 of title 14, Code of Federal Regulation.









Q: Are there answers to other Frequently Asked Questions on the U.S. Department of State Website?
A: Yes, if you need more information regarding VWP, see the Department of State Website regarding non-immigrant visas.

Source: CBP.gov (12/04/2007)
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