Visa Waiver Program and Tourist Visas
Entering the US by applying for immigrant and non-immigrant visas can be a tricky, and complex, process. However, the process for entering as a tourist is much more straightforward and, for some, a tourist visa may not even be needed. The Visa Waiver Program allows for the citizens or nationals of certain countries to enter the US for tourism/business for up to 90 days by receiving an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). They will not require tourist visas. Those from countries not included in the Visa Waiver Program will have to still apply for a B visa (tourist visa to the US).
Get the Electronic System for Travel Authorization
In order to receive the ESTA, the traveler must apply for the authorization at least three days prior to their trip to the US port of entry. Even with an ESTA, a traveler can be refused entry to the US by US customs officers (reasons may vary). An ESTA requires the passenger to hold a valid, biometric passport from the eligible Visa Waiver Program country. Moreover, the passenger must have a return ticket or connecting flight within 90 days of entering the US border. As with other travelers to the US, the passenger must not be inadmissible to the US for other immigration issues, such as previous criminal convictions or safety concerns.
While the ESTA is available to the citizens and nationals of 38 countries, those who have been left out must apply for a tourist visa. The visa is split into two categories: B-1 for business and B-2 for tourism. The business visa is not for those who seek employment in the US, but rather for those entering to settle or negotiate contracts, attend conferences, or consult with associates. Those applying for the B-1/B-2 visa must fill out Form DS-160 and submit all required documentation. An interview can then be scheduled with the relevant US Embassy or Consulate and wait times can vary. Usually, applicants will have to bring documentation that establishes the purpose of the tourist trip and intention to leave the US following the visit. If you are looking to enter the US as a tourist, check the US Department of State’s website to find out if your citizenship is included in the Visa Waiver Program and any other relevant information for tourists.