Monday, November 17, 2008

Visa Waiver Program Admits 7 New Countries

Visa Waiver Program Expansion

Release Date: November 17, 2008

For Immediate Release DHS Press Office Contact: 202-282-8010

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible citizens or nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and was recently expanded to include seven new allies to the list of countries authorized to participate in the VWP.

Facilitating Travel Between Partner Nations With A Common Focus On Security

* The administration sought authority for years to reform the VWP.

* In 2006 President George W. Bush proposed, and Congress ultimately passed as part of the "Implementing Recommendations of the 9/11 Commission Act of 2007 (9/11 Act)," reforms to the VWP law that gave the Administration greater flexibility to admit countries to VWP as the program's security was strengthened. Section 711 of the 9/11 Act amends Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, which provides the legal authority for the VWP.

Easier Travel For Legitimate Tourists And Travelers

* DHS has increased the number of participating VWP countries from 27 to 34. Expanding the number of countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa increases business and social ties between our countries and at the same time deepens cooperation on required security measures.

* The seven newly added countries are: the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, and Slovakia.

* Citizens of countries eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP prior to November 17, 2008 are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

Strengthening Security Measures To Protect Against Those Who Want To Do Us Harm

* To be admitted to the VWP, a country must meet various security requirements, such as enhanced law enforcement and security-related data sharing with the United States and timely reporting of both blank and issued lost and stolen passports. VWP members are also required to maintain high counterterrorism, law enforcement, border control, and document security standards.

* As a result of these information sharing measures, DHS is able to screen arriving VWP passengers far more effectively and to detect, apprehend, and limit the movement of terrorists, criminals, and other dangerous travelers.

* Beginning November 17, 2008 eligible citizens or nationals from the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, the Republic of Korea, Latvia, Lithuania,and Slovakia must obtain approval through the Electronic System forTravel Authorization (ESTA) prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP

* Beginning Jan. 12, 2009, eligible citizens or nationals from all VWP countries must obtain approval through ESTA prior to traveling to the United States under the VWP.

* ESTA is an automated system that assists in determining eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP, and whether such travel poses any law enforcement or security risk. Upon completion of an ESTA application, a VWP traveler is notified of his or her eligibility to travel to the United States under the VWP.

For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, please visit http://www.cbp.gov/xp/cg ov/travel/id_visa/business_pleasure/vwp/. For additional information on ESTA, visit www.cbp.gov/esta.
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The VWP allows foreign nationals from certain countries to be admitted to the United States under limited conditions and for a limited time without obtaining a visa.

The following countries are currently in the program:

Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.

For citizens with the unrestricted right of permanent abode in England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands, and the Isle of Man, the Secretary of Homeland Security, in consultation with the Secretary of State, may add countries to the program or remove them from the program at any time.

After May 15, 2003, citizens of Belgium must present a machine-readable passport in order to be granted admission under the VWP. This requirement also applies to citizens of Andorra, Brunei, Liechtenstein and Slovenia.

The advantage of entering the United States under the VWP is that tourists and people wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the United States spontaneously without obtaining visas, unless they are otherwise inadmissible.

To qualify for the VWP, you must:
  • Intend to enter the United States for 90 days or less;
  • Have a passport lawfully issued to you by a VWP country that is valid for six months beyond your intended visit;
  • Be a national of the VWP country that issued your passport;
  • Have been checked using an automated electronic database containing information about inadmissible aliens to the United States;
  • Have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination other than a territory bordering on the United States or an adjacent island unless:
    1. You are a resident of an adjacent island,
    2. This requirement is waived by the Attorney General under regulations, or
    3. You are a visitor for business who arrives aboard a private aircraft that maintains a valid agreement guaranteeing to transport you out of the United States, if you are found to be inadmissible or deportable;
  • Present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer a completed and signed Form I-94W, Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival/Departure Form. ( Visa Waiver Program Applicant Responsibilities )
  • Not pose a safety threat to the United States;
  • Not have failed to comply with the conditions of any previous admission under the Visa Waiver Program;
  • If arriving by air or sea, you must arrive aboard a carrier that signed an agreement, "signatory carrier", guaranteeing to transport you out of the United States if you are found to be inadmissible or deportable;
  • Convince the examining CBP officer that you are clearly and beyond a doubt entitled to be admitted and that you are not inadmissible under section 212 of the Act. For reasons that would make you inadmissible, please see the Immigration and Nationality Act at INA ยง 212 (a);
  • Waive any right to review or appeal a CBP officer's decision as to your admissibility, other than on the basis of an application for asylum or an application for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; and
  • Waive any right to challenge your removal, other than on the basis of an application for asylum or an application for withholding of removal under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
The advantage of entering the United States under the VWP is that tourists and people wishing to conduct business in America can travel to the United States spontaneously without obtaining visas, unless they are otherwise inadmissible.

If you are admitted to the United States under the VWP, you may not change or extend your non-immigrant status. If your admission is denied, you have no right to administrative or judicial review, except as noted above. Likewise, if you are found to have violated the terms of your admission, you also forfeit the right to contest a removal order; therefore, before using the VWP, you should carefully consider your options.

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