Visa Waiver Program FAQs
What is the Visa Waiver Program?
The Visa Waiver Program allows foreign nationals from certain countries to travel to the United States under limited conditions and for a limited time without obtaining a visa.
Which countries currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program?
Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.
Who in Estonia is eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
- Are traveling for business, pleasure or transit;
- Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less;
- Have an Estonian citizen's biometric “e-Passport” (with embedded computer chip) valid for the entire period of the visitor’s intended stay.
- Have completed an online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application and received a positive reply;
- Have a valid return or onward ticket. Onward tickets may not end in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean;
- Enter the United States aboard a commercial airline on a regularly scheduled passenger route or aboard a commercial cruise liner. Private or official aircraft and vessels do not meet this requirement.
Please confirm your eligibility using the “Visa Waiver Wizard”
Who in Estonia is not eligible to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
Anyone who does not meet all of the conditions above, and/or individuals who:
- have received a reply from the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) system indicating they should apply for a visa;
- Do not have an Estonian citizen's e-Passport (with chip);
- Intend to work in the United States, paid or unpaid, including work as an au-pair or intern;
- Intend to stay in the United States for more than 90 days;
- Intend to attend school or university in the United States;
- Have currently or previously held a Green Card (Legal Permanent Resident status) and have not formally abandoned it by signing form I-407 at an Embassy or border;
- Have been refused admission into or have been deported from the United States within the past five years;
- Have been refused a U.S. visa due to an ineligibility other than 221(g) or 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act;
- Have ever been arrested or convicted for any offense or crime (including drug trafficking) [Note: Travelers with minor traffic offenses that did not result in an arrest and/or conviction for the offense may travel visa free, provided they are otherwise qualified.];
- Have been afflicted with a serious, communicable disease or who are drug abusers or addicts;
- Have participated in the persecution of any person under the control of the Nazi Government of Germany;
- Have ever been members or representatives of a terrorist organization.
Travelers who fall under one or more of these categories are not necessarily ineligible for entry into the United States, but must apply for and obtain a visa before traveling to the United States.
What is the advantage of using the Visa Waiver Program?
The advantage of traveling under the Visa Waiver Program is that tourists and individuals wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the United States without obtaining a visa, assuming that they are not otherwise inadmissible.
What are the disadvantages of using the Visa Waiver Program?
If you are admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, you may not change or extend your non-immigrant status. If your admission is denied at a port of entry, you have no right to an administrative or judicial review. Likewise, if you are found to have violated the terms of your admission, you forfeit the right to contest a removal order.
What are documentary requirements of the Visa Waiver Program?
- An e-Passport from a Visa Waiver Program country that is valid for the entire period of the visitor's intended stay;
- A valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval;
- A completed 1-94W form [Note: These forms are completed while in flight and should be given to the Border Patrol at the port of entry.
What is an e-Passport?
E-Passports feature an embedded Radio Frequency Identification computer chip, which can store and retrieve data, providing for a more secure passport which allows customs agents to electronically access personal data usually found on the inside of previous versions of passports.
All Estonian travelers wishing to enter the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must travel with a valid e-Passport. The Republic of Estonia began issuing e-Passports May 22, 2007.
What if I already possess a visa?
Individuals already possessing a valid visa will still be able to travel to the United States on the visa for the purpose it was issued. Additionally, individuals traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), nor are they required to carry an e-Passport.
Am I eligible to visit the United States on the Visa Waiver Program if I have ever been refused a visa?
While travelers who have been refused a visa under the provisions of Section 221(g) or 214(b) of the Immigration and Nationality Act are not ineligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, they should be aware that they will be questioned by an immigration official at the United States port of entry regarding any previous refusals.
A traveler should be prepared to present evidence of his or her intention to depart the United States within 90 days. This is generally satisfied by furnishing evidence of strong social and economic ties to a traveler's place of permanent residence. It is important to note that there is no specific information which will guarantee admission into the United States, as each applicant's circumstances differ.
If an immigration officer is not satisfied that a traveler meets the qualifications for nonimmigrant status, that traveler will be denied entry into the United States.
What is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)?
ESTA is an Internet-based application that will verify a potential visitor's eligibility to travel to the United States under the terms of the Visa Waiver Program. Travelers will input, into the ESTA, information that is largely the same as that collected via the I-94W Nonimmigrant Alien Arrival/Departure Form, already required for admission to the United States.
A valid ESTA approval (which takes the form of a positive response from the system) must be received prior to boarding a carrier en route to the United States.
Is ESTA a kind of new visa?
No, ESTA is not a new visa, nor does it meet the legal or regulatory requirements to serve in lieu of a U.S. visa. Additionally, a valid ESTA approval permitting travel to the United States does not guarantee a traveler's admissibility at a U.S. port of entry.
How often would travelers need to apply for a travel authorization under ESTA?
An ESTA will be valid for two years. This means that an individual could travel to the United States repeatedly within a two-year period without requiring a new ESTA application. However, a new ESTA will be needed anytime a traveler obtains a new passport.
How long does ESTA take to approve an application?
ESTA responds to applications within seconds.
How long will the U.S. government store data received via ESTA and who will have access to it?
This information will be subject to the same strict, privacy provisions, use limitations, and access controls of other U.S. government programs. Access to such information is limited to those with a professional need to know.
What if my ESTA application is not approved?
If a traveler's ESTA application is not approved, a message will refer the applicant to the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for a non-immigrant visa to travel to the United States. Estonian citizens who wish to apply for a visa at the U.S. Embassy in Tallinn please visit the General Visa Information.
Will applying for a travel authorization under ESTA cost money?
Yes. For any application made on or after 8 September 2010, the cost of applying for ESTA is US$ 14. Any third party website that charges more than $14 is fraudulent. Please apply only through the official ESTA website.
What is the I-94W form?
All nonimmigrant visitors seeking entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program must fill out an I-94W form (the green form). This form includes specific questions related to inadmissibility issues. If an applicant answers “Yes” to any of the questions on the back side of form, the applicant should contact the United States Embassy or Consulate in his/her country to obtain a visa prior to travel.
Travelers must sign and date the I-94W form and must retain possession of the departure portion of the document until leaving the United States.
When can Estonian citizens begin to travel on the Visa Waiver Program?
Estonian citizens can begin traveling visa free under the Visa Waiver Program starting on November 17, 2008. Please confirm your eligibility using the “Visa Waiver Wizard”.
How do the rules governing Estonia's inclusion to the Visa Waiver Program differ from those applicable to other countries?
They don't. Upon admission to the program, those countries just joining the VWP (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, South Korea and Malta) must immediately comply with the new security-related provisions included in the legislation providing for the program's expansion. The VWP's existing 27 participant countries will have to meet the exact same requirements in 2009. Uniform security standards are essential because security threats are not confined to particular corners of the globe.
Where can I go for additional information?