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Which country can enter US without visa?

When traveling to the United States, most foreign nationals are required to obtain a visa. However, there are 38 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program which allows their citizens to enter the US without a visa for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes. The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Instead of a visa, VWP travelers obtain an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) approval prior to travel. The VWP applies only for tourism and business purposes – those traveling to the US for studies, work, etc. still need to obtain specific visas.

The Visa Waiver Program was created in 1986 with the aim of promoting travel and tourism to the United States. Since 2000, the program has formed an important component of US border security by allowing for pre-screening and pre-approval of low-risk VWP travelers before they arrive at US borders. All travelers entering the US under the VWP must obtain electronic travel authorization via the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system prior to travel.

Key Facts about the Visa Waiver Program:

  • Citizens of 38 countries can travel to the US for tourism/business for 90 days or less without a visa.
  • Instead of visa, VWP travelers must get approved ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) before travel.
  • ESTA screening allows for security checks and pre-approval of low-risk VWP visitors before arrival.
  • VWP is only for tourism/business – study/work travelers still need regular visas.
  • VWP has made travel to US easier from member countries.

Which countries are in the Visa Waiver Program?

Currently, there are 38 countries that are members of the US Visa Waiver Program. The list of VWP countries includes most of US’s major allies and trading partners in Europe, Asia, and the Pacific regions. However, large countries like China, India, Russia, Brazil are not part of the VWP and their citizens need visas to enter US.

Here is the list of the 38 visa waiver countries:

Europe (30 countries) Asia/Pacific (8 countries)
Andorra Australia
Austria Brunei
Belgium Japan
Czech Republic New Zealand
Denmark Singapore
Estonia South Korea
Finland Taiwan
San Marino
United Kingdom

The largest number of countries (30) are from Europe, followed by 8 countries from Asia and the Pacific regions. The VWP country list is periodically updated by the US government – countries can be added or removed based on security, immigration, and foreign policy considerations.

What are the entry requirements under the Visa Waiver Program?

While citizens of VWP countries can enter the US without a visa, they need to meet certain eligibility requirements to travel under the program. The main Visa Waiver Program requirements are:

  • Passport: Must have a valid passport with machine-readable zone. Passport must be valid for at least 6 months beyond stay in US.
  • Return travel: Must have a return or onward ticket out of US within 90 days of entry.
  • ESTA approval: Must apply for ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) minimum 72 hours before travel and obtain approval.
  • Stay limit: Maximum allowed stay is 90 days for tourism/business. Cannot extend stay beyond 90 days.
  • Activities: Not allowed to study, work or engage in journalism/media activities.
  • Criminal record: Must not have any criminal convictions or otherwise inadmissible to the US.

Additionally, VWP travelers must demonstrate that they are genuine temporary visitors coming only for tourism/business – they should be able to prove ties to their home country that they plan to return to. ESTA applications can be denied if travelers seem intent on staying in the US.

Key Requirements Under Visa Waiver Program:

  • Valid passport (6 months validity minimum)
  • Return ticket out of US in 90 days
  • Get ESTA approval before travel
  • Maximum stay of 90 days
  • No study, work or journalism activities
  • No criminal record or inadmissibility to US

What is ESTA and how does it work?

ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. The ESTA system is an automated online system used to determine the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and whether they pose any security risk.

VWP travelers are required to complete an online ESTA application prior to travel to the US. The ESTA application collects information such as the traveler’s name, birth date, contact details, passport details, employment details, and answers to eligibility questions related to VWP requirements. The application also collects details of any previous travel to the US.

The ESTA application data is processed through various security databases to check for any risks. In most cases, an instant ESTA result is provided which will be either an approved travel authorization or a denial. The approved ESTA is usually valid for 2 years and allows for multiple entries into the US during that period.

Key Facts about ESTA for Visa Waiver Program:

  • Online system to determine eligibility to travel under Visa Waiver Program
  • Collects traveler’s details including passport, employment, past US visits
  • Checks data against security databases for risks
  • Provides instant approval in most cases – valid for 2 years
  • Allows multiple entries to US during validity period

ESTA is not a visa but simply determines eligibility for visa-free travel to the US. It adds a layer of security by allowing background checks on VWP visitors before they start their trip to the US. Travelers arriving at US borders without ESTA approval will be denied entry.

What are the benefits of the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program provides the following key benefits:

  • Easier short-term business and tourism travel – Citizens can travel to US easily for short visits without time-consuming visa appointments.
  • Promotes tourism and trade – Facilitates tourism, trade, and business partnerships between US and member countries.
  • Reduces consular workload – US consulates have fewer visa applications to process from VWP country residents.
  • Improves relations – VWP status is a privilege that improves ties between US and member countries.
  • Enhances security – ESTA allows screening of VWP visitors before they depart for the US.

For citizens of the 38 participating countries, the Visa Waiver Program has made short-term business and tourism travel to the US much more convenient. For the US, the program promotes economic partnerships and improves security through pre-screening of visitors before they arrive.

Main Benefits of Visa Waiver Program

  • Easier short visits to US for business/tourism
  • Boosts tourism and trade with US
  • Reduces visa workload for US consulates
  • Privilege improves relations with member countries
  • ESTA allows pre-screening of travelers

What are the restrictions of the Visa Waiver Program?

While the Visa Waiver Program facilitates short visits to the US, it does come with some restrictions that travelers should keep in mind:

  • No visa extensions – The 90 day maximum stay cannot be extended within the US.
  • No change of status – Not permitted to change from tourist to student or work visa from within the US.
  • No employment – Not permitted to work or engage in business/journalistic activities.
  • No permanent residency – VWP entry cannot lead to obtaining US permanent residency.
  • No waiver of inadmissibility – VWP not applicable if traveler was ever denied a US visa.
  • Can be terminated – US government can terminate VWP privileges with little notice.

Additionally, ESTA approval does not guarantee entry – travelers can still be denied at the US border by immigration officers.

VWP travelers must ensure they fully comply with all program restrictions to avoid problems or deportation from the United States.

Key Restrictions under Visa Waiver Program

  • Maximum 90 day stay, no extensions
  • No change to student/work visa status
  • No employment or business activities
  • No path to permanent residency
  • No waiver of prior US visa denials
  • VWP access can be terminated by US


The Visa Waiver Program offers the convenience of visa-free short-term business and tourism travel to the US for citizens of 38 countries. While making travel more accessible, the program also incorporates security measures through the ESTA approval system to pre-vet visa waiver visitors before they arrive in the US.

Travelers from VWP countries should ensure they understand all the requirements and restrictions in order to legally benefit from this privileged visa-free access to the United States.