Frequently Asked Questions about the Visa Waiver Program
By Scott M. Borene*
1. What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain participating countries to enter the United States temporarily for business or pleasure without obtaining a U.S. visa. Non-citizen permanent residents of these participating countries do not qualify for the program- an individual must be a citizen of a qualifying country. The permitted activities and rules for visitors in the Visa Waiver Program are similar to the permitted activities and rules for visitors in the B-1/B-2 visa category (i.e. generally, employment and full-time study are both forbidden).
2. What are the participating countries?
The participating countries are: 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, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom.
3. How long can someone remain in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program?
Foreign nationals visiting the United States under the Visa Waiver Program may remain in the U.S. no longer than 90 days. Visa Waiver participants are admitted in either the “WT” (waiver tourist) or “WB” (waiver business) category. I-94’s are now electronic. Individuals who wish to remain in the U.S. longer than 90 days should explore other immigration options.
4. Can someone extend his or her stay under the Visa Waiver Program while in the U.S.?
No. An individual must leave the U.S. before the 90-day expiration date or he or she will be considered out of status.
5. Can someone who was admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program change status to another nonimmigrant category?
No, an individual may not change status when they were admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program. In order to switch to a different nonimmigrant category, the person must depart the U.S. and re-enter in the new category using the appropriate visa.
6. Can an individual admitted to the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program work while in the U.S.?
7. Can an individual admitted to the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program study full-time while in the U.S.?
8. What legal requirements, if any, must be satisfied by someone who wishes to enter the U.S. pursuant to the Visa Waiver Program?
Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval prior to travel. An individual must present the following documents to the CBP Immigration Officer at the arrival airport or land border: a valid e-passport (enhanced secure passport) issued by a participating country, a completed and signed Form I-94W, evidence of the individual’s financial ability to support him or herself during his or her stay in the U.S., and a roundtrip transportation ticket of a carrier that is a party to the visa waiver agreement if traveling by sea or air.
*Scott M. Borene is the Founder and Managing Attorney of Borene Law Firm, P. A. The immigration lawyers now with Borene Law Firm have more than 70 years of combined professional experience helping clients with U.S. and global visa and immigration projects. Scott Borene was selected by other lawyers as 2018 Lawyer of the Year in Immigration Law as noted by The Best Lawyers in America and Minnesota Monthly magazine. He has been repeatedly recognized as one of the Top 20 Lawyers in the World “most highly regarded by other lawyers” in corporate immigration law. He is listed in the Best Lawyers in America and acknowledged as an Immigration Law Super Lawyer. He is often called upon to act as an “expert’s expert” to advise other experienced immigration lawyers on complex immigration matters. Scott Borene is a past Director and a past Member of the Board of Governors of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA), the world’s largest professional organization of immigration lawyers. In 2002, he was the founder and Conference Chair of AILA’s Global Immigration Summit in New York City, the world’s largest conference of global immigration lawyers. He has written many articles on immigration law and is a frequently invited expert speaker on immigration topics at AILA National Conferences and other major national and international legal conferences. He is the Editor-in-Chief of many leading professional reference books for immigration lawyers including The Global Immigration Guide: A Country-by-Country Survey and The Global Immigration Guide: Crossing Borders for Business, AILA’s most comprehensive books on Global Immigration. He served as Editor-in-Chief of Immigration Options for Academics and Researchers (2005), AILA’s leading Expert Occupational Handbook on immigration issues in higher education. He is the author of Dr. Yes – Some Practical Strategies for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Immigrant Visa Cases of Health Care Professionals. Scott Borene attended Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts as a National Merit Scholar. After graduation from Harvard, he attended William Mitchell Law School in Minnesota. Scott Borene has more than 30 years of experience helping employers obtain work visas for key international talent. Scott Borene can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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