Updated: Aug 2, 2019
Are you currently residing abroad and is thinking of traveling to the U.S. for a short period of time? Or are you interested in helping your family members or friends visit you in the U.S. on a temporary basis? Whether it is your first time visiting the United States, have a family member that is getting married in the U.S., would like to take your spouse on a short vacation to the sunny city of Los Angeles, or visit your kids who are currently studying abroad in the U.S., there are options available.
ESTA Visa Waiver Program
Applying for a visa can be a lengthy and costly process. You most likely would need to obtain the services of an attorney to prepare a complete application packet, submit several hundred dollars in application fees, take the time to attend a visa interview, and most likely would need to wait for a certain length of time to finally receive your visa. The good news is that if the intended travel period is under 90 days, qualifying individuals from certain countries may not be required to obtain a visa at all.
You may be thinking how is this possible? The answer is the ESTA Visa Waiver Program. Under this program, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) provides a secure public website that provides an automated form for you to complete in order to apply for a travel authorization. The application is usually processed within 72 hours and if it gets approved, you will be authorized to travel without a visa! You heard that right! Under certain circumstances, you may be able to obtain travel authorization by going to the CBP website and completing an Individual Application online. During the application process, you will need to provide your basic biographic information, passport information, your current or previous employer information, your address and point of contact in the United States, emergency point of contact information, and your payment information. Once the application has been submitted, it is not over yet! Make sure to submit payment for the application fee. As of April 2019, the application processing fee is $4.00. Once your application is approved, you will need to pay an additional fee of $10.00.
Do I Qualify to Apply for the Visa Waiver Program?
So, the big question is, do you qualify to apply for the visa waiver program? In order to be eligible to apply for the program, you need to meet the following criteria below:
· Intend to enter the U.S. for 90 days or less for business, pleasure, or transit;
· Have a valid passport lawfully issued to you by a Visa Waiver Program country;
· Arrive through a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier;
· Not pose a threat to the welfare, health, safety, or security of the U.S.;
· Have complied with all conditions of the previous admission under the Visa Waiver Program;
· Not inadmissible under the Immigration and Nationality Act;
· Have a return or onward ticket; and
· Are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program countries (e.g. Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan, United Kingdom, etc.).
For the complete list of Visa Waiver Program countries, please visit the CBP website here.
Pack your bags and get ready to go!
So, what are you waiting for?? If you do qualify for the visa waiver program, it is simple to set your travel plans in motion and finally take that trip to the U.S. that you have been waiting for!
You can visit the CBP website for more information about the ESTA Visa Waiver Program and its application process. If you think you do not qualify for the ESTA Visa Waiver Program and would like to explore further options with an immigration attorney, please feel free contact our office.
*Please note that the information contained in this article is for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult with an immigration attorney for advice specifically tailored to your case.*