Visa Waiver Program

Visa Waiver Program eligibility changes

The 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act was signed into law on December 18, 2015.  In addition to funding the U.S. federal government through the 2016 fiscal year, it includes far-reaching, immediately effective changes to the Visa Waiver Program.  As background, citizens of the 38 countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) may come to the United States as visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining visitors’ (B-1 or B-2) visas in their passports.  They may visit the U.S. for periods of up to 90 days, provided that they are eligible for admission as visitors under applicable law.

Citizens of Chile eligible for Visa Waiver Program from May 1

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

Citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may come to the United States as visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining visitors’ (B-1 or B-2) visas from U.S. Consulates. They may visit for periods of up to 90 days, provided that they are eligible for admission under applicable law.

On February 28 the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the designation of Chile in the VWP. Eligible Chilean passport holders with ESTA clearance will be able to visit the U.S. without visas from May 1, 2014. There now are 38 VWP countries:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Like other VWP travelers, eligible Chilean passport holders must apply for advance authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). VWP travelers are not permitted to board a carrier to travel to the U.S. by air or sea unless they have ESTA clearance.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2014

Implications of the Infosys settlement for B-1 visas

What can employers learn from Infosys’ recent settlement with federal prosecutors? Ultimately, the more conservatively one follows the immigration law, the more limited one’s interest may be. The government alleged that Infosys misused B-1 visitor visas – inexpensive, for short term stays, and for a narrowly-defined range of commercial activities – to bring foreign workers to the United States to perform skilled labor, for long periods of time, that should have required H-1B visas. It alleged that Infosys submitted false statements to deceive U.S. consular officials into granting B-1 visas to workers, and Customs and Border Protection officers into granting them entry to the United States. This included letters stating the purpose of travel as “meetings” when the true purpose was activities not authorized under a B-1 visa. The government also alleged that Infosys directed the workers themselves to take part in the deception. Infosys did not admit to the allegations of fraud and misfeasance, but agreed to a fine of $34 million.

Citizens of Taiwan eligible for Visa Waiver Program from November 1

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC

Citizens of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) may come to the United States as visitors for business or pleasure without first obtaining visitors’ (B-1 or B-2) visas from U.S. Consulates. They may visit for periods of up to 90 days, provided that they are eligible for admission under applicable law.

Yesterday the Secretary of Homeland Security announced the designation of Taiwan in the VWP. Eligible Taiwan passport holders with ESTA clearance will be able to visit the U.S. without visas from November 1, 2012. There now are 37 VWP countries:

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Like other VWP travelers, eligible Taiwan passport holders must apply for advance authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). VWP travelers are not permitted to board a carrier to travel to the U.S. by air or sea unless they have ESTA clearance.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2012

Form I-94W eliminated for VWP travel

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC - May 20, 2010 By the end of summer 2010, the paper arrival/departure form (Form I-94W) will be eliminated for visitors entering the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.  Paper I-94s will continue to be issued to travelers entering the U.S. on visas.

As background, the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), established in 1986, enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of up to 90 days without obtaining a visa. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  There now are 36 VWP countries.  Since January 2009, VWP travelers have been required to get a clearance through the “ESTA” web site before boarding a carrier to the U.S. This clearance is usually instantaneous, but it can take up to 72 hours.  Once the ESTA clearance is granted, it is valid for two years or until the applicant’s passport expires. 

Because the web-based ESTA application consists of basic biographical and eligibility questions typically requested on a paper I-94W form, the paper form is being phased out -- reducing redundancy and enhancing the security of sensitive personal information.  The VWP data collected through ESTA is stored electronically on secure servers that can be accessed by U.S. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) inspectors at U.S. ports of entry.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2010

Citizens of Greece eligible for Visa Waiver Program

News Release from Jewell & Associates, PC - March 31, 2010 Citizens and eligible nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries may come to the U.S. as visitors for business or pleasure without first getting visitors’ (B-1 and/or B-2) visas in their passports from U.S. Consulates outside the U.S.  Provided that they are otherwise eligible for admission under applicable statutory and regulatory requirements, they may visit the U.S. for periods of up to 90 days. On March 4, 2010, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, designated Greece as a country that is eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program. There now are 36 VWP countries (including the new addition, Greece):

Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Remember that, as of January 12, 2009, travelers using the VWP must obtain approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel.  VWP travelers are not permitted to board a carrier to travel by air or sea to the U.S. unless they have been cleared through ESTA.  Complete information on ESTA is available at www.cbp.gov/esta.

© Jewell & Associates, PC 2010