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Visa Waiver Program
 

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries, including the Kingdom of The Netherlands, to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa, if certain requirements are met. Under the VWP, time spent in Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands counts towards the maximum of 90 days stay allowed under the program.

International visitors to the U.S. from Visa Waiver Program countries are required to have a valid ESTA authorization in order to enter. All visitors must apply for travel authorization (ESTA) online.

Visas are always required for airline crew members, crew members of commercial, private or maritime vessels, students, interns, exchange visitors, temporary workers and intra-company transferees, treaty traders, religious workers, performers and artists, representatives of foreign countries on official business, and journalists/media representatives traveling for work purposes.

Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?

Currently, 27 countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

What are the other requirements of the Visa Waiver Program?

Citizens of the above countries may use the VWP if:

  • Traveling for business meetings or pleasure (not on government business or as members of the media). Transit through the United States is generally permitted, if the total time in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands is less than 90 days.
  • Staying in the U.S. for less than 90 days (this includes time spent in Canada, Mexico, and adjacent islands)
  • Traveling on an unexpired machine-readable passport (MRP)
  • Depending on when VWP travelers' passports were issued, other passport requirements will apply:
    • Machine-readable passport (MRP) issued before 26 October 2005 - no further requirements
    • MRP issued between 26 October 2005 and 25 October 2006 - digitized photograph on data page or integrated chip with information from the data page
    • MRP issued on or after 26 October 2006 - integrated chip with information from the data page (note: Dutch passports from 26 October 2006 onwards comply with this requirement)
  • They have complied with the conditions of previous admissions under the Visa Waiver Program, and have not been found ineligible for a U.S. visa.
  • If arriving by air or sea, they are traveling on an approved commercial carrier and have a return trip ticket to a foreign destination other than the U.S. or adjacent islands.
  • If arriving by land, they can demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the U.S. and sufficient funds to support themselves in the U.S.
  • VWP travelers who have been admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the U.S. under the VWP for the original admission period.
  • They do not have a criminal record.
When does a national of a VWP country need a visa instead of using VWP?

Travelers who do not meet the above conditions must apply for a visa and may not use the VWP. If they attempt to travel visa-free they risk being refused entry into the United States. In particular, a visa must be requested if the traveler:

  • Wants to remain in the U.S. for longer than 90 days, or wishes to change status (from tourism to student, etc.) once in the U.S.
  • Wants to work or study in the United States, wants to come to the U.S. for other purposes not allowed on a visitor visa, or intends to immigrate to the U.S.
  • Does not have a machine-readable passport (MRP) meeting one of the conditions outlined above.
  • Intends to travel by private aircraft or other non-signatory air or sea carriers to the U.S.
  • Has been refused a visa or admission to the U.S. before, has been deported, or did not comply with the conditions of previous VWP admissions.
  • Has a criminal record (particularly those involved with drugs)
  • Has a communicable disease or other condition making them ineligible for a visa.
What is a machine-readable passport? What is an e-passport (or biometric passport)?

A machine-readable passport has certain biographical data entered on the data page in accordance with international standards. A key feature is the two lines of printed machine-readable data that appear at the bottom of the page.  Dutch passports comply with requirements for biometric passports.

Travelers should contact their country's passport issuing agency or authority if they have any doubts related to whether their passport is machine-readable. Useful information about passports from particular countries, including temporary passports, can also be found on the Department of State's webpage on VWP.

Are all VWP countries now issuing e-passports to their citizens?

The vast majority are and many have been for some time. However, a few countries offer their citizens a choice of either an e-passport or a traditional passport, if they are still in production.

My children are included in my machine-readable passport. Can I use the VWP?

Families seeking to enter the U.S. under the VWP need to obtain an individual machine-readable passport for each traveler, including infants, as machine-readable passports typically have biographic data for only one traveler in the machine-readable zone. Thus, children included in family or parents' passports may be denied visa-free entry into the U.S. since only the primary traveler's biographic data is included in the passport's machine-readable zone.

I am not sure if the purpose of my trip falls under the VWP.

If in doubt, travelers should check with the nearest Embassy or Consulate to verify that what they plan to do is considered tourism or business.

I am transiting through the U.S. on my way to another country. Can I use VWP?

Yes, as long as your total stay in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands is less than 90 days, and you meet the other VWP requirements. You can use the VWP if, for instance, you are transiting the U.S. on a journey between Australia and Europe, or are transiting Guam between Australia and Japan.

However if for example you are transiting the U.S. on the way to a 6 month stay in Canada, you cannot use the VWP, as your total time in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the adjacent islands will be over 90 days. In this case you should apply for a B-1/B-2 visitor visa, or a transit visa.

I am going to the U.S. on an exchange visitor (J) visa. Can I transfer to the VWP without leaving the U.S. when my J visa expires, so I can travel around the country?

No, you cannot change to the VWP from any other visa category while you are in the U.S. You can only be admitted to the VWP on arrival in the U.S.

I have entered the U.S. on the VWP but now find I need to stay longer than the 90 days. Can I transfer to another type of visa without leaving the U.S.?

No, you cannot transfer from the VWP to any other type of visa, and you cannot extend the VWP 90 day admission period. You must leave the U.S., Canada, Mexico and adjacent islands within the VWP 90 day admission period, and either apply for a visa relevant to your new situation, or re-enter on the VWP if your next stay will be less than 90 days and you still meet the other requirements. Re-entering on the VWP is however at the discretion of immigration officials at the port of entry, who can deny admission.

Can I extend the 90 day limit of the Visa Waiver Program?

No, the 90 day period of admission is not extendable.

Is there a limit to how many times I can enter the U.S. on the VWP? Must there be a minimum period between one period of travel on the VWP and the next?

No, but entry or re-entry into the United States is at the discretion of immigration officials at the port of entry.

If I travel to Canada or Mexico, can I re-enter the U.S on the VWP, and if so does the 90 days then start again?

VWP travelers who have been admitted to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the U.S. under the VWP for the original admission period. They do not, however, get a new 90 day admission period.

I am a journalist traveling to the U.S. for work. Can I travel under VWP?

Foreign media representatives planning to engage in that vocation in the U.S. are not eligible, as the purpose for their stay does not qualify as "business". These professionals must obtain a nonimmigrant media (I) visa.

Does my passport need to be valid for at least 6 months after the intended stay to use the VWP?

Dutch passports and many others are exempt from this rule. See the State Department's webpage on the VWP for the full list. 

However, admission into the United States will not be granted by the immigration authorities for a period extending beyond the actual expiration date shown in the passport.  You can only be admitted to stay a maximum of 90 days or until the expiration date on your passport, whichever comes first.  Moreover, stays under the VWP cannot be extended.  So, if you intend to stay less than 90 days, but beyond the expiration date in your passport, you should renew your passport before traveling instead.

I was arrested/convicted of a crime years ago. Can I use the VWP?

Anyone convicted of or punished for a crime involving moral turpitude (regardless of how long ago, and even in some cases if a conviction was not recorded) is ineligible for the VWP and must apply for a visa. If there is any doubt regarding the nature of the offense, it is advisable to apply for a visa.

As part of the visa application, the applicant submits details as to the court date, the type of offense, and the outcome, usually with a police certificate or court documents. If the police certificate says "no recordable convictions" but the person has committed a crime, he or she must obtain court documents The applicant must also include the port of entry and exit to/from the U.S. and the expected dates of travel. This information is in addition to the usual requirements for the type of visa being applied for.

I had a drunk driving charge. Can I use the VWP?

A single drunk driving charge which didn't involve a jail sentence does not preclude you from using the VWP. When completing the Visa Waiver Program questionnaire given to you on the aircraft, you must answer yes to the question asking whether you have been arrested or charged. Consequently, you need to carry with you documentation (e.g. court records) to show you were not jailed. If you do not have this documentation you may prefer to apply for a visa.

How do I apply for the VWP?

There is no application process as such. VWP travelers must present a completed and signed I-94W Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record to U.S. officials at the port of entry. I-94W forms are free and often provided by travel agents, airlines or cruise ships prior to arrival, but may be picked up and completed on arrival at the U.S. port of entry.

More information about the Visa Waiver Program is available from the State Department website.

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