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What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The visa waiver program is a U.S. government program that enables citizens and nationals from the 38 Visa Waiver Countries to enter the United States for tourism or business purposes for up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The advantage of entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program is that you can travel to the United States on short notice without obtaining a visa in advance.

What is ESTA?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. ESTA is an online application system developed by the United States government to pre-screen travelers before they are allowed to board an airplane or ship bound for the United States. Starting on January 12, 2009, any person entering the United States under the visa waiver program is required to hold an approved ESTA Travel Authorization..

Who Needs to Apply for ESTA?

All travelers entering the United States (by air or sea) under the visa waiver program are required to hold a valid ESTA travel authorization. The purpose of ESTA is to allow the US Department of Homeland Security to pre-screen all Visa Waiver Travelers before they leave their respective countries. U.S.-bound travelers are recommended to apply for a Travel Authorization at least 72 hours prior to departure.

The Visa Waiver Countries

There are currently 38 Visa Waiver countries that as of January 12, 2009 require an approved ESTA Travel Authorization to visit the United States via air or sea. Individuals holding a passport from any of these countries may visit the United States under the Visa Waiver Program under certain conditions. Travelers with a passport from any other country must obtain a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa in advance. Note that a travel authorization (ESTA) must be applied for online in advance, while Form I-94W is normally completed while flying or at the U.S. port of entry.

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