ESTA Visa Waiver Countries and VWP

The United States’ ESTA Visa Wavier Countries (VWP) allows travelers holding passports from designated Visa Waiver countries to visit the U.S. using an ESTA Travel Authorization when arriving by air or sea. You must complete the ESTA application online before traveling to the U.S. You will typically complete Form I-94W at the U.S. port of entry or in transit to it.If you do not hold a passport from a Visa Wavier country, you will not be eligible for the ESTA program and will need to apply for and receive a B-1 or B-2 Visitor Visa before traveling to the U.S.You must be a citizen of a Visa Wavier country to travel to the U.S. on an ESTA Visa. If you area permanent resident of such a country but not a citizen, you will not be eligible for an ESTA Visa. To become a Visa Wavier country, a country must be designated as a “program country”by the U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, who will consult with the U.S. Secretary of State in making the designation. Among the requirements for the Visa Wavier, country designation is a meager rate of visa refusals for non-immigrants and adequate passport security. The following section provides background information on the Visa Wavier program and discusses which countries are in the program

Background Information on the ESTA Visa Wavier Countries

In 1986, The U.S. Congress created the Visa Wavier program. Its purpose was to make it easier for tourists and short-term business visitors to come to the U.S. and to let the U.S. State Department use its consular resources to deal with high-risk issues. The first Visa Wavier country was the United Kingdom (July 1988); Japan was added to the program in the same year(16 December). The following countries were added in October of 1989: France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany.1991 saw Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, New Zealand (the first VWP country from Oceania), Norway, San Marino, and Spain join the program. Brunei became the second Asian country in the program in 1993.The Republic of Ireland was added to the VWP list on 1 April 1995, followed by Argentina (the first VWP country in Latin America) and Australia in 1996. Slovenia joined in 1997 (30September). Portugal, Singapore, and Uruguay were added in 1999 (9 August).In 2002,Argentina was removed from the list, and in 2003, Uruguay was also released. Chile joined the program in 2014. The newest country that joined the VWP was Poland, which came in November 2019.

law was not implemented, however, until 26 October 2004, since several VWP countries still issued passports that were not machine-readable. (Over one-third of French and Spanish passports fell into this category). This delay, however, did not apply to Belgian passports since their integrity and security were in question.All VWP travelers entering the U.S. with passports issued on or after 26 October 2006 were required to have biometric passports. At the time that the law went into effect, Andorra, Brunei, and Liechtenstein were still not issuing biometric passports.The Electronic Travel Authorization or USA ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) program was announced in November of 2006. Its purpose is to allow VWP travellers to provide advance information about their visit and to allow electronic authorization for the visit. (It is not, however, a guarantee of admission to the U.S.)

List of Eligible ESTA Visa Waiver Countries

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to America for business or tourism purposes for 90 days or less without needing a U.S. B-1 visa or B-2 visa.WB status is granted to those who enter the United States for business purposes, as per INA101(a),(15)(B).WT status is available for those who enter the country to enjoy their leisure asper INA 101(a),(15)(B).

ESTA Authorization

All VWP passengers who travel to the United States via air or sea must register online to obtain a travel authorization through Electronic Systems for Travel Authorization before they can travel to the United States as part of the VWP. DHS is currently developing an interim final rule to expand ESTA preregistration to ESTA Visa Waiver Countries entrants who plan to enter the United States via land ports of entry (POE). These VWP travelers will electronically submit their information through ESTA to CBP once the rule has been finalized and is in effect. This will allow them to apply for admission to the United States via a land POE. For more information on this expansion, keep checking the NAFSA Website.

Visa Waiver Countries

These countries are currently members of the VWP. The following countries are currently members of the VWP.8 CFR 217.2 (a)-Definitions of designated countries in the VWP.
  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Croatia
  • Czech Rep.
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Israel
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Poland
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

**The term “United Kingdom” refers to only British citizens who have the right of permanent residence in the United Kingdom (England and Scotland,Wales, Northern Ireland, and the Channel Islands). 

*It does not include British citizens living abroad, British dependent territories citizens, or citizens of BritishCommonwealth countries.

Entry restrictions under the Visa Waiver Program

Even if they meet all program requirements, individuals cannot participate in ESTA Visa Waiver Countries.

  • Individuals who are citizens of these countries, regardless if they are dual nationals of a country participating in a visa waiver program, are eligible to apply. 

    •    Syria or Iraq  

    •    A country that has been designated, at the time the alien applies for admission to the United States, under the VWP as a State Sponsor Of Terrorism. There are currently four countries that have been designated as state sponsors of terrorism: Iran, North Korea, and Syria. You can see the Department of State’s list of states that are state sponsors of terror.   


  •  Persons, regardless of citizenship or nationality, who were present in any country on or after March 1, 2011. (Unless they traveled to that country to perform military service in the Armed Forces of a Visa Waiver Program Country or to fulfill official duties as a full-time employee of the Government of a Visa Waiver Program Country).
    •    Syria or Iraq  

    •    In a country designated as a State sponsor of Terrorism, Cuba and Iran are currently the only options.   

    •    Any other country or region of concern designated by the Secretary for Homeland Security.


  •   Individuals who are not allowed to enter the United States under the Immigration and Nationality Act or pose a threat to U.S. security, welfare, and health  


  •   Individuals who violate the terms and conditions of any prior stay under the VWP or 

  •   Persons who were ever deported from the United States  

It is recommended to apply for ESTA 72 hours before departure

All passport holders from ESTA Visa Waiver countries must apply for their ESTA online