The Visa Waiver Program What You Need To Know In

The Visa Waiver Program, What You Need to Know in 2019

Millennials love to travel. In fact, the United Nations estimates that at least 20% of all travelers who visit foreign countries, over 200 million people, are millennials. Millennials are not just traveling for pleasure, either. MMGY’s Global Portrait of Business Travelers estimated that millennials took approximately 7.4 business trips in a year, the most of any other generation. They are also the most likely to look for inspiration from their peers, many of whom are off traveling the world. 

Work and play go hand in hand for millennials, and the ability to visit other countries freely plays a massive role in travel for business and pleasure. People need to be able to visit a country easily for that country to draw tourism. One way visitors to the United States have enjoyed visiting the United States is through the Visa Waiver Program. This program offers an easier way to visit the United States for 90 days or less. However, the Trump administration is tightening up requirements for countries that are included in the Visa Waiver Program. It remains to be seen what the effect these new requirements will have on the popular program.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

As of 2019, the United States has imposed new requirements for Visa Waiver countries. What is a Visa Waiver country? They are nations that are “Visa Waiver Program” members. Currently, 38 countries are included in the “Visa Waiver Program.” If a country is part of this program, its citizens can apply for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Those that take part in the ESTA can legally use an alternative travel authorization. They will not need a visa for tourism and business. Applicants to the program apply online and make travel to and from the United States more accessible for millions of people yearly.

The ESTA program allows people to travel to the U.S. for up to 90 days as a tourist or business person. Why is this program more appealing than traditional visas? The ESTA visa waiver is more attractive than a conventional visa because it does not have the long wait periods that obtaining a typical visa does. It is also cheaper, and the applicant does not have to have an in-person meeting with a U.S. consulate or embassy. The ESTA travel authorization is not automatic, however. Applicants must still apply for the waivers, and the U.S. government needs to decide to grant the waivers.

Which Countries Qualify for the ESTA program?

The United States puts strict requirements on the 38 countries accepted into the ESTA program. It also places stringent requirements on individuals who are using the Visa Waiver Program to get into the United States. When the United States observes that over 2% of more Visa Waiver Program recipients do not leave the United States within the set 90 days, it could affect those citizens’ home countries for continuing to be a part of the Visa Waiver Program. Many countries seek to become part of the ESTA club and are denied because they are not deemed to be “high value” and “low risk” countries by the United States. There are rigorous requirements for joining the Visa Waiver program that many countries just cannot meet.

Individuals may not carry out work while they are taking part in the Visa Waiver Program. If they are in the country for a conference, they may attend the conference, but they may not carry out additional work for wages as a U.S. citizen would.

Additionally, if someone is in the United States for 91 days under the Visa Waiver Program, they are in breach of the conditions of their visa. Due to this breach, the United States might not extend a person who overstayed their visa another Visa Waiver. 

What New Policies Has the Trump Administration Imposed on the Visa Waiver Program?

The Trump administration is requiring that the United States strengthen security measures. Part of fulfilling this goal includes more threats to the United States and sharing among the federal government and immigration agencies. 

The United States continually re-evaluates a country’s membership in the Visa Waiver Program. The Visa Waiver Program status of Uruguay and Argentina was revoked after their respective financial crashes.  The policy justification behind this decision was that due to their economic instability, citizens using the program would have a motivating incentive to overstay their visas.

The 38 countries that currently enjoy Visa Waiver Program status must meet several new requirements if they desire to keep their status. They must use the counterterrorism information from the United States to screen travelers who enter their country by crossing the border from another country. This is a new aspect of the already existing precedent that countries in the Visa Waiver Program openly share information with the United States. Indeed, when someone applies for ESTA online, the website cross-references that person’s details against other databases shared between countries in the program.

Another new requirement involves the United States assessing the policies other countries use to protect against aviation-based terrorism. The United States will now require countries seeking to be in the Visa Waiver Program along with those already in the program to thoroughly vet airport employees.  The U.S. has stated that some member countries are already in compliance with these requirements. It remains to be seen if any countries will be removed from the program for not complying with the new, more stringent aviation rules.

If You Need Assistance With Your Visa Application, We are Here to Help

Traveling should be as enjoyable as possible. Do not let the process of gaining a travel waiver add stress to your travel plans. Whether you need help applying for an ESTA visa, a non-immigrant visa, or an immigrant visa, it is crucial to have legal experts on your side. If you are an immigrant who is navigating any part of the immigration process, the experienced Miami, Florida immigration attorneys at Canero Immigration Law Firm can help. Contact us to set up a consultation today.

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