New Rules for Travel to the USA – for Visa Waiver Program countries

The United States has indicated that it will be stepping up enforcement of the requirements of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Travelers from VWP countries (see list below) may be denied boarding on flights to the United States if they have not properly registered using the online application tool under the U.S. Homeland Security’s Electronic System for Authorization (ESTA) which can be found at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/esta.html

This may affect you if you are a non-US citizen traveling to the US.

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

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables the nationals of these countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor [B] visa purposes only) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

But that’s not all. The travelers to use the VWP, must also comply with these conditions:

* They have received an authorization to travel under the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA)
* They present the appropriate type of passport valid for six months past their expected stay in the United States (unless country-specific agreements (pdf file) provide exemptions). This is a requirement in addition to other passport requirements for all categories of passports — regular, diplomatic, and official – when the traveler is seeking to enter the United States for business or tourist purposes, for a maximum of 90 days;
* The purpose of their stay in the United States is 90 days or less for tourism or business (Visitor (B) visa) purpose of travel. (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.) Transit through the United States is generally permitted. Important Notice: Foreign media representatives planning to engage in that vocation in the United States are not eligible for VWP travel, as the purpose of their stay does not qualify as “business”. These professionals must obtain a nonimmigrant media (I) visa. Note also that travelers planning to work or study cannot travel on VWP, and they must obtain the appropriate visa to travel to the United States.
* If arriving by air or sea, they are traveling on an approved carrier (See the approved carriers list /pdf/) and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination;
* They can demonstrate the intent to stay 90 days or less in the United States and demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves while in the United States.

In other words – for my fellow Bulgarians, and everyone, who is NOT from the 35 countries, listed above: you’re better off with a visa, than without one.

Good luck, and safe travels!

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