The Visa Waiver Program
allows citizens of certain designated countries to enter the US as business or
tourist visitors for up to 90 days without requiring them to obtain a visa. This
program started as a pilot program in 1986.It was made permanent in 2000.There
are currently 29 countries participating in the program: Andorra, Argentina, 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,
the United Kingdom and Uruguay.
Participation of designated
countries are reviewed every five years and requires that the rejection rate of
applications for B-1/B-2 visas for that country cannot be over three percent.
The country must allow US citizens to visit under the same terms as the US allows
the country's citizens to enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program. Also, by October
1, 2003, countries must issue machine readable passports to continue participation.
When the program was made permanent in 2000, a provision was included that allows
for the immediate termination of a country in the event of an emergency such as
a war or economic collapse.
The Department of
State has recently announced that Argentina will be eliminated on March
1, 2002.Also, the participation of Belgium, Italy, Portugal, Slovenia and Uruguay
is being reviewed. The applicant for entry under the Visa Waiver Program must
be a citizen of the participating country, not merely a permanent resident. In
the case of the United Kingdom, the person must be a British citizen, not a British
overseas citizen or citizen of a Commonwealth nation.
The applicant for
entry must show that they have the financial resources to support themselves during
their stay in the US. Those who arrive by boat or plane must have a return ticket.
Upon arrival, the applicant completes an I-94W.On this form, the applicant indicates
that they waive the right to a hearing in the event they are ordered deported,
and that they understand they cannot apply for an extension or change of status
in the US. Therefore, if the purpose of a person's visit to the US is to investigate
possible employment or education, they should obtain a traditional B-1/B-2 visa.
The only exception
to the rule that a person cannot change their status after entering the US under
the Visa Waiver Program covering people who are applying for adjustment of status
as the immediate relative (e.g. spouse) of a US citizen or under section 245(i).