When non-U.S. citizens decide to come to the United States, whether to visit, work or stay, many may not know where to begin the process. A good place to start is to determine if it is necessary to obtain a U.S. Visa. A visa is a travel document inserted into a foreign national’s passport giving them permission to enter the U.S. However, some foreign nationals may be visa exempt, allowing them to come into the U.S. without a visa.
A foreign national may be visa exempt if they are citizens of certain countries and meet several additional requirements. The country must be a participant of the Visa Waiver Program, which allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for 90 days or less. There are currently 38 countries that participate in this program. These countries include Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom.
The intended purpose of the trip to the United States must also meet certain requirements. A foreign national may travel for:
• Business purposes – This may include consulting with business associates, attending conferences relating to your field, attending short-term training or negotiating a contract.
• Tourism purposes – This may include vacation, visiting friends or family, obtaining medical treatment, participating in social events, participating in amateur contests (sports, music, etc.) or enrolling in a short recreational course of study that will not earn credit towards a degree (eg. cooking class).
You may not enter on the Visa Waiver Program in order to study for credit, work or live permanently in the U.S.
The other basic requirements necessary to be visa exempt are:
• You must be approved for ESTA, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) automated web-based system to determine eligibility to travel without a visa to the United States for tourism or business.
• You must have no previous visa ineligibilities, such as a previous visa denial.
• You must travel via an approved carrier.
• You must travel with the correct form of passport (typically a machine readable passport or an e-passport).
If you would like assistance in applying for the Visa Waiver Program please contact Berardi Immigration Law today!