Visa Waiver Program
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a U.S. visa. The VWP is administered by the Attorney General in consultation with the Secretary of State. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created by an act of Congress as a pilot program in 1986 and implemented in 1988. Congress passed legislation to make the program permanent in October 2000, and the President signed the legislation on October 30, 2000.
Machine-readable passports (MRP) – Starting October 26, 2004, visa waiver travelers from ALL 27 Visa Waiver Program countries must present either a machine-readable passport or a U.S. visa. In the interest of facilitating travel, the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection Bureau (CBP) has given officials at ports of entry the discretionary authority to grant one-time exemptions on a case-by-case basis to certain VWP travelers without a visa or MRP, who are nationals of twenty-two (22) of twenty-seven (27) VWP countries. Nationals of the following five (5) countries are already required to present an MRP for admission under the VWP, and therefore this one-time exemption procedure will not apply to VWP travelers from Andorra, Belgium, Brunei, Liechtenstein, and Slovenia.
Visa Waiver Program (VWP) Countries:
There are 27 countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Iceland, Norway, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Belgium, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Denmark, Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Monaco, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
What to know about the VWP & the Required Machine Readable Passport?
The Patriot Act legislated that all Visa Waiver Program travelers must have a machine-readable passport. As of October 26, 2004, if a visa waiver traveler does not have a machine-readable passport (MRP), then the traveler must present a U.S. visa at the port of entry to enter the U.S. This includes all categories of passports — regular, diplomatic, and official, when the traveler is seeking to enter the U.S. for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days.
What Is a Machine-Readable Passport?
A machine-readable passport has biographical data entered on the data page according to international specifications. The size of the passport and photograph, and arrangement of data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1 Machine Readable Passports. OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader, style B. If there are questions about your passport after carefully reviewing this information, and any information, which may be available to you from your country, contact the passport issuing agency or authority in your country of citizenship.
What Do You Need to Enter the United States under the VWP?
To enter the U.S. under the VWP, travelers must:
1. Be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country;
2. have a valid passport issued by the participating country that is valid for six months beyond your intended visit;
3. have a machine-readable passport (MRP); be seeking entry for 90 days or less, as a temporary visitor for business or pleasure ;
4. you will not be permitted to extend your visit or change to another visa category under the VWP;
5. if entering by air or sea, have a round-trip transportation ticket issued on a carrier that has signed an agreement with the U.S. government to participate in the VWP, and arrive in the United States aboard such a carrier; and
6. hold a completed and signed Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94W, on which you have waived the right of review or appeal of an immigration officer’s determination about admissibility, or deportation.
When Does a Citizen of a VWP Country Need to Apply for a Visa?
You must apply for a visa under the following circumstances, if you: Want to work or study in the United States; have been refused a visa or admission to the U.S. before; have a criminal record; or are ineligible for a visa.
Do Canadian Citizens Need a Visa or MRP?
Citizens of Canada generally do not require a visa. While some people mistakenly believe Canada is part of the visa waiver program, the authorization for Canadian citizens to travel visa-free comes from other immigration laws. Additionally, the machine-readable passport requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens, because they are not part of the visa waiver program. It should be noted however; some Canadian citizens traveling to the U.S. require nonimmigrant visas.
Machine Readable Passport Example: