Posted on Feb 15, 2016
From New York to Los Angeles, there is plenty to see here in the United States. If you are from another country and want to do some sightseeing just for a short time, what are your options if any? There are a couple of visas that are viable options for you. But if you are wanting to be in the United States for a short period of time then you could obtain a visitor visa. However, there is another option that might work even better for you.
The United States government offers a Visa Waiver Program (VWP) to individuals from qualifying countries who wish to do business or tour the US for up to 90 days or less. The person has to be a citizen or national of the participating country. It was brought about because Congress wanted to cultivate tourism and short-term business ventures. The program applies to all 50 states and also Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. You will need to meet all the requirements of the program to be eligible. There are 38 countries that participate in the VWP.
Various factors went into choosing what countries and citizens would be eligible for the VWP. One stipulation for any country to qualify is that they have to grant visa-free access to United States citizens as well. Argentina however does charge $160 for United States citizens to enter into their country. The United Kingdom was the first participate in the VWP starting in 1988.
In qualify to travel to the United States through the VWP you must be authorized through a web based system, called the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, or "ESTA" for short, that determines if a person is eligible to travel to the United States for tourism or business.
If you have ever held a visa or traveled to the United States using the VWP you will have had to stay in compliance in order to be eligible again. You will be disqualified if you have previously been found to be ineligible or in non-compliance. Your passport will need to be current and valid for at least 6 months after your departure from the United States. This also implies to the immediate family if they are traveling as well.
Following September 11, 2001 President Bush required that each person entering the United States have a machine readable passport. This passport has specific biographical data on it that a computer can pick up and show on a data page when scanned. There is also an e-Passport that has a data chip integrated into it that does the same thing.
The Visa Waiver Program thus provides travelers a great way to visit the United States without having to deal with the pains of applying for a visa.