Visa Waiver Program

Individuals from certain countries are able to travel to the United States without a visa.  A list of Visa Waiver Countries and more information on the Visa Waiver Program can be found here:

Visa Waiver Program

The Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) is an online system that is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). ESTA is mandatory for all nationals or citizens of VWP countries who plan to travel to the United States for temporary business or pleasure. Under the VWP, all such travelers must receive an electronic travel authorization prior to boarding a U.S.-bound airplane or cruise ship.

ESTA will determine, almost immediately in many cases, if an individual is eligible for VWP travel, and if such travel poses any law enforcement or security risks.  ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel, and once approved, will be valid for up to two years or until the applicant’s passport expires, whichever comes first.  Authorizations will also be valid for multiple entries into the United States.  In order to facilitate the authorization process, the Department of Homeland Security recommends that ESTA applications be submitted as soon as an applicant begins planning U.S.-bound travel, and not less than 72 hours prior to travel.

Applying for ESTA is simple.

To complete the online application, click here.

Eligible Taiwan passport holders will be able to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa, if certain requirements are met.

Taiwan applicants who meet the following criteria may be eligible to travel under the VWP:

• Travelers with a biometric Taiwan passport (called an e-passport) that was issued on or after December 29, 2008 and contains a National ID  number;

• Travelers entering the United States for 90 days or less for the purposes of tourism or business (for visitor [B] visa purposes of travel).  Transit through the United States is generally permitted;

• They have received an authorization to travel under the VWP through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA);

• If arriving by air or sea, they are traveling on an approved carrier (see the https://www.cbp.gov/document/forms/vwp-signatory-carriers-list) and have a return trip ticket to any foreign destination; and

• They can demonstrate sufficient funds to support themselves while in the United States. Nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries must meet the above eligibility requirements to travel without a visa, and therefore, some travelers from VWP countries are not eligible to use the program.

The following types of travelers are not eligible for travel under the VWP and need to apply for a nonimmigrant visa:

Anyone whose purpose of travel is not consistent with business or tourist activities permitted under B-1/B-2 visa requirements, including:

• Applicants who intend to work in the United States (either paid or unpaid). This includes working journalists or news media members, au-pairs, interns, musicians and other specific employment categories;

• Applicants who intend to study (F visas) or come to the United States on an exchange visitor program (J visas);

• Airline crew members or seamen who are transiting through the United States en route to another destination (C1/D visas);

• Applicants who enter the United States on private planes or on private yachts;

• Applicants who will stay in the United States for business or pleasure for more than 90 days; and

• Applicants who previously have been denied an ESTA authorization, or who have other immigration violations.

Each application must contain, in English, biographical data including name, birth date, and passport information. The applicant must also answer VWP eligibility questions regarding communicable diseases, arrests and convictions for certain crimes, past history of visa revocation or deportation, and other questions. Children, regardless of age, are also required to obtain a separate ESTA approval. The traveler or applicant will also need credit or debit card information to pay the fees associated with the ESTA application.

Yes. The amount of the fee depends upon whether the ESTA application is approved. The fee for an approved application is $14, and includes two parts:

• $4 Processing Charge – All applicants requesting an electronic travel authorization are charged for the processing of each application submitted, regardless of whether the application is approved.

• $10 Travel Promotion Act Fee – If your application is approved and you receive authorization to travel to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, an additional $10 will be charged to your credit or debit card. This fee is credited to the Travel Promotion Fund. If your electronic travel authorization is denied, you are only charged for the processing of your application.

You may submit your application at any time prior to travel. We recommend that you submit your travel authorization application as early as possible. VWP travelers are not required to have specific plans to travel to the United States before they apply for an ESTA authorization. When you are preparing to travel to the United States, please keep in mind that your application may take up to 72 hours to process.

ESTA travel authorizations are generally valid for two years or until your passport expires, whichever comes first. Visit the ESTA FAQs on the CBP website to learn more about situations requiring a new ESTA travel authorization. A new ESTA travel authorization is required if the traveler is issued a new passport, changes his or her name, changes his or her gender, changes citizenship, or if any answer that the traveler previously gave when responding to questions into the ESTA application is no longer accurate. Otherwise, a visitor may travel to the United States repeatedly within the validity period without having to apply for another ESTA authorization.

No. Travelers who already have a valid visitor visa will still be able to travel with that visa as long as you are still travelling for visitor (B) visa purposes and the visa is not expired or revoked. No ESTA authorization would be required in this case. Individuals traveling on valid visas are not required to apply for an ESTA authorization.

VWP travelers who have been admitted under the Visa Waiver Program and who make a short trip to Canada, Mexico or an adjacent island generally can be readmitted to the United States under the VWP for the balance of their original admission period. See the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website for additional details.

LPRs who plan to travel under the VWP may be required to wait for 4-6 weeks after completing the I-407 form before registering for ESTA authorization.  For more information about abandoning your permanent residence, please visit the Immigrant Visas section of our website.

There are a number of third parties that have established websites that charge a fee for submitting your application on your behalf.  If you have used one of these third party sites, we strongly suggest you use your reference number to confirm with the official U.S. government site to ensure that your ESTA application is in the CBP system.  We recommend you do this because we have no way of knowing if the information passed through the third party website to CBP is accurate. If it is not, you may have a problem when you arrive in the U.S.

CBP cannot refund the money you paid to a third party website, however if you think you have been victimized, contact your bank or credit card company and request a refund of any amount over the $14.00 required by the U.S. government by disputing the add-on charges on your statement.

No. The ESTA application process is managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), therefore any questions or concerns regarding your application status must be directed to DHS.

To check your ESTA status through the DHS system click here.

For information on how to correct errors in your ESTA application, please click here.

If you receive a “Travel Not Authorized” response to your travel authorization application, but wish to continue with your travel plans, you will be required to apply for a U.S. visa.  The denial of a travel authorization only prohibits travel under the Visa Waiver Program and is not a determination of eligibility for a visa to travel to the United States. In the event you are not approved for a travel authorization, no court shall have jurisdiction to review an eligibility determination under ESTA.  Click here to visit CBP website for more information on ESTA denials.  For additional information on applying for a U.S. visa, please visit the Department of State Web site at www.travel.state.gov.

The ESTA application process is managed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), therefore any concerns regarding the website must be directed to DHS.  If you are having technical issues with the application please read guidance found on the DHS website.

Notes

  • [1] With respect to all references to “country” or “countries”, it should be noted that the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, Pub. L. No. 96-8, Section 4(b)(1), provides that “[w]henever the laws of the United States refer or relate to foreign countries, nations, states, governments, or similar entities, such terms shall include and such laws shall apply with respect to Taiwan.” 22 U.S.C. § 3303(b)(1). Accordingly, all references to “country” or “countries” in the Visa Waiver Program authorizing legislation, Section 217 of the Immigration and Nationality Act, 8 U.S.C. 1187, are read to include Taiwan. This is consistent with the United States’ one-China policy, under which the United States has maintained unofficial relations with Taiwan since 1979.