The Visa Waiver Program

Since January 2009, new rules apply for all citizens or nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries who are seeking to travel to the USA. Travellers require ESTA authorisation prior to travelling to the United States by air or sea. This only applies for persons planning a short stay for business or pleasure.

Citizens or nationals of the following countries do not require a visa within the framework of the Visa Waiver Program:

Andorra
Australia
Austria
Belgium
Brunei
Czech Republic*
Denmark
Estonia*
Finland
France

Germany
Greece
Hungary*
Iceland
Ireland
Italy
Japan
Latvia*
Liechtenstein

Lithuania*
Luxembourg
Malta*
Monaco
Netherlands
New Zealand
Norway
Portugal
Republic of Korea*

San Marino
Slovak Republic*
Slovenia
Singapore
Spain
Sweden
Switzerland
United Kingdom

*Travellers from these countries require an ePassport

In order to enter or pass through the USA you must satisfy the following conditions:

  • You are a citizen or national of one of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries
  • You hold a valid passport – in the case of German citizens/national, the following applies: the passport must be valid for the duration of the stay at least
  • You are travelling as a tourist or on business
  • You are planning to stay for 90 days or less
  • You possess a return or onward ticket (your journey may not end in Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean)
  • You are travelling with a Visa Waiver Program signatory carrier. If this is not the case, you will have to apply for a visa (even if you are arriving by private aircraft, military aircraft or by private boat)

Important information for admission under the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program applies for the whole of the USA, including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and Guam.

After entering the USA, it is also possible to travel to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean within the 90-day period. You are also permitted to re-enter the United States via any route. Within the 90-day period, Mexico and Canada may also be entered by land without a visa. At the border you will have to furnish proof that you have sufficient funds for the entire duration of your stay and for the return journey. Furthermore, an administrative fee of USD 6 is charged on entering the US from Canada or Mexico.

Important information for entry into the USA

You will require ESTA authorisation in order to enter the United States without a visa. Despite the ESTA authorisation, you may nevertheless be required to complete the customary I-94W form in the plane or on the boat. This is because not all airlines are able to verify an ESTA authorisation on site. If you are asked to complete the form I-94W, you must retain the green I-94W card until you leave the USA. This is important if you wish to leave the USA (for example if you go on an excursion with a private boat that is not contractually affiliated to the VWP) and wish to re-enter the country. In this case you will experience difficulties if you are no longer in possession of your green card.

Travellers that require a visa

  • You are planning to work in the USA – regardless of whether paid or unpaid (even as an au-pair or trainee)
  • You are planning a longer stay in the USA (more than 90 days)
  • You are planning to attend school or university in the USA
  • You have been deported from the USA in the past 5 years or you have already been refused entry at some time in the past – you will also need a visa in this case
  • You have a criminal record or deal with drugs
  • You suffer from a severe communicable disease, have a mental disorder or are a drug addict
  • You are or have been a member of a terrorist or subversive organisation
  • You hold a blue German federal passport or an alien's passport
  • You participated in persecution by the Nazis