The Visa Waiver Program enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for business (WB=Waiver of Business Visa) or tourism (WT=Waiver of Tourist Visa) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.
This means that the normal requirement to go to a U.S. embassy or consulate and apply for a B-1 or B-2 visa sticker in a passport is not necessary, because it is waived by law (INA 217). The Visa Waiver Program has very stringent passport requirements, so please read the detailed information about the VWP at the U.S. Department of State website.
The Visa Waiver Program is currently available for citizens of Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, and the United Kingdom*
* Please note: The United Kingdom refers only to British citizens who have the unrestricted right of permanent abode in the United Kingdom, which includes England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It does not refer to British overseas citizens, British dependent territories' citizens, or citizens of British Commonwealth countries.
Preparing for Travel
Visitors should check with the U.S. Department of State to make sure that their country is still eligible for the Visa Waiver Program before they travel.
Visitors from one of the above countries who come on a WB or WT must fly on an approved air carrier.
Advance Authorization is required online. Filing is recommended 72 hours before travel begins. The ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) registration is available online and is valid for two years after approval.
Family and friends traveling as tourists who plan to enter the U.S. on the WT status may need a letter of invitation and/or an affidavit of support on Form I-134 (if funding for their trip is from a U.S. source). Refer to Inviting Family Members to the U.S. for more information.
Status in the U.S.
The visitor will be given a green colored Arrival/Departure card (I-94W) on the plane to fill out. This card will be stamped by the DHS or Customs Border Protection official at a U.S. port-of-entry.
Important: Individuals entering under the Visa Waiver Program are generally subject to B-1/B-2 rules (B-1=WB, B-2=WT). The WB or WT only allows the visitor to stay for a period of up to 90 days. No extensions or “prospective student” processing are allowed. Change to another visa status within the U.S. is also not allowed.
Connecting With Your Host Department
In order to receive payment from the University of Minnesota, visitors must meet certain criteria. This information can be found at Payment for B/WB (Visa) Status.
If the criteria will be met, visitors must follow the procedures below when entering the U.S. in WB/WT status:
- Business visitors (WB) need to receive a letter of invitation from the University of Minnesota department. The letter of invitation needs to include: statement of invitation, exact dates of visit, purpose of the trip, activities during visit, if funding is provided, if no funding is provided what is the funding (i.e. personal funds, etc.) See Sample Letter.
- Visitor needs to present to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer:
- Passport (see the previous passport citizenship requirement)
- Letter of Invitation (required for University of Minnesota international faculty, staff or official Business visitors (WB), recommended for tourist/pleasure visitors (WT)
- Proof of funding and/or support
- After arrival in the U.S., the visitor and hosting department need to complete documentation for the payment to occur. Instructions and forms can be found at Payment for B/WB (Visa) Status.