The United States welcomes citizens from around the world who genuinely want to visit, study, and do business in this country. One means of facilitating those visits is the U.S. Government's Visa Waiver Program.
The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program was established in 1986 with the objective of eliminating unnecessary barriers to travel, stimulating the tourism industry, and permitting the U.S. Department of State to focus consular resources in other areas.
Currently 35 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program. To be admitted to the program, a country must meet various security and other requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank [un-issued] and issued lost and stolen passports. Visa Waiver Program members are also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.
In addition, designation as a Visa Waiver country is at the discretion of the United States Government. Meeting the objective requirements of the Visa Waiver Program does not guarantee a successful candidacy for Visa Waiver Program membership.
Nationals of the 35 countries participating in the program are eligible if they meet certain requirements. They must have received an authorization to travel under the Visa Waiver Program through the U.S. Government's Electronic System for Travel Authorization. They must present the appropriate type of passport valid for 6 months past their expected stay in the United States, unless country-specific agreements provide exemptions. This is a requirement in addition to other passport requirements for all categories of passports, when the traveler is seeking to enter the U.S. for business or tourism purposes, for a maximum of 90 days. Visitors under the program must demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the United States and demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves while in this country.
The United States welcomes more than 15,000 visa waiver travelers annually and looks forward to welcoming more visitors during 2009.