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Exempt Visitors-The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Citizens from 27 nations may make tourist or business trips to the United States for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.  For such visits, these foreigners are exempt from the new US-VISIT fingerprint and photo requirement.
  • The countries are:
    Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Portugal and Singapore.
  • Also excepted are most Canadians, because they usually do not need visas, and those Mexicans who are visiting the United States for a short time and are not venturing far from the border.
Excerpts from Visitor Visas-U.S. Department of State


Generally, a citizen of a foreign country who wishes to enter the United States must first obtain a visa, either a nonimmigrant visa for temporary stay, ...
The "visitor" visa is a nonimmigrant visa for persons desiring to enter the United States temporarily for business (B-1) or for pleasure or medical treatments (B-2).

  • Changes introduced shortly after September 11, 2001 involve extensive and ongoing review of visa issuing practices as they relate to our national security.  Visa applications are now subject to a greater degree of scrutiny than in the past.  So it is important to apply for your visa well in advance of your travel departure date.
  • Foreign travelers who are citizens from certain eligible countries, may also be able to visit the U.S. without a visa on the Visa Waiver Program.

Visa Waiver Program

Machine-readable passports - The Secretary of State has granted a postponement until October 26, 2004, as the deadline whereby visa waiver program travelers from 21 VWP countries must present a machine-readable passport (MRP) at the U.S. port of entry to enter the U.S. without a visa, otherwise a U.S. visa is required.  Starting October 1, 2003 visa waiver travelers from five countries must present either a machine-readable passport of a U.S. visa.

Citizens of Belgium who wish to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program must present a machine-readable passport (MRP) effective May 15, 2003.


The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.  Not all countries participate in the VWP.  Some restrictions apply to this program as explained below and in the section, "What Do I Need to Enter the United States under the VWP?"


Visa Waiver Program - Participating Countries

Andorra (MRP) Iceland Norway
Australia Ireland Portugal
Austria Italy San Marino
Belgium(MRP) Japan Singapore
Brunei (MRP) Liechtenstein (MRP) Slovenia (MRP)
Denmark Luxembourg Spain
Finland Monaco Sweden
France the Netherlands Switzerland
Germany New Zealand United Kingdom

Note: Countries in bold above with the (MRP) designation are required to have machine-readable passports (MRP) as of October 1, 2003 for travelers to enter the U.S. on the visa waiver program.  All other countries visa waiver program travelers about must have a MRP as of October 26, 2004 except Belgium, which has had an MRP requirement for VWP travelers since May 15, 2003.

What is a Machine Readable Passport?

A machine readable passport has biographical data entered on the data page according to international specifications.  The size of the passport and photograph, and arrangement of data fields, especially the two lines of printed OCR-B machine readable data, meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization, Doc 9303, Part 1 Machine Readable Passports.  OCR-B means the type is Optical Character Reader size B.  If there are questions about your passport, after carefully reviewing this information, and any information which may be available to you from your country, you may want to contact the passport issuing agency or authority in your country of citizenship.

What do I Need to Enter the United States under the VWP?

  • To enter the U.S. under the VWP, travelers from participating countries must:

  • Be a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country;

  • Have a valid passport issued by the participating country that is valid for six months beyond your intended visit; Have a machine-readable passport (MRP), following the required due dates for MRPs explained above;

  • Be seeking entry for 90 days or less, as a temporary visitor for business or pleasure.  You will not be permitted to extend your visit or change to another visa category under the VWP.


  • Visitors for Pleasure - While this is not a complete listing, here are types of activities permitted:
    - Visiting friends and relatives, touring or vacationing, visits for rest;
    - Visits for medical treatment.
    - Participating in conventions, conferences or convocation of fraternal or social organizations;
    - Amateurs participating in sports, musical, and other events or contests, who will recieve no money or other remuneration in return


  • If entering by air or sea, have a roung-trip transportaion ticket issued on a carrier that has signed an agreement with the U.S. government to participate in the VWP, and arrive in the United States aboard such a carrier.

  • Hold a completed and signed Nonimigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94W, on which he/she has waived the right of review or appeal of an imigration officer's determination about admissibility, or deportation.  These forms are available from participating carriers, from travel agents, and at land-border ports-of-entry.

  • You must have no visa ineligibilities.  This means if you have been refused a visa before, have a criminal record or are ineligible for a visa you cannot travel on the Visa Waiver Program without a visa.  You must apply for a visa to the U.S.

Entry at a land border crossing point from Canada or Mexico is permitted under the Visa Waiver Program.

Is there Any Fee?

There is a small filing fee for the Nonimmigrant Visa Waiver Arrival-Departure Record, Form I-94W from airlines.

When Does a Citizen of a VWP Country Need to Apply for a Visa?
You must apply for a visa under the following circumstances, if you:

  • want to work or study in the United States; or

  • have been refused a visa before; or

  • have a criminal record; or

  • are ineligible for a visa.

Do Canadian Citizens Need a Visa or MRP?

Citizens of Canada generally do not require a visa.  (While some people mistakenly think Canada is part of the visa waiver program, the authorization for Canadian citizens to travel visa-free comes from other immigration laws.)  The machine-readable passport requirement does not apply to Canadian citizens, because they are not part of the visa waiver program.  It should be noted, these Canadian citizens traveling to the US require nonimmigrant visas: treaty traders (E), and fiance/es (K-1), as well as a U.S. citizen's foreign citizen spouse, who is traveling to the U.S. to reside here while they wait for the final completion of the process of immigration (K-3), and their respective children (K-2 for children of fiancees, and K-4 for children of a foreign citizen spouse), spouses of lawful permanent residents (V-1) and the children of those spouses (V-2) traveling to the U.S. to reside here while they wait for the final completion of their immigration process.  Additionally, these Canadian citizens traveling to the US require nonimmigrant visas: foreign government officials (A), officials and employees of international organizations (G), NATO officials, representatives and employees if they are being assigned to the U.S. (as opposed to an official trip).

Visiting the United States

Some foreign athletes and sports teams may come to the U.S. with visitors visas.  Most of these visitors need B-1/B-2 visitor visas to enter the United States.













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