Integrity Legal

29th June 2009

Visa Waivers are often accorded to nationals from countries that have a long standing relationship with the USA. Currently, the Kingdom of Thailand is not a participant in the US Visa Waiver Program, therefore, anyone wishing to travel to the USA on a Thai passport must obtain some sort of American Visa.

The US Visa waiver program should not be confused with a waiver of excludability which is usually necessity after a US visa denial based upon a legal ground of inadmissibility. The US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) was created to allow certain foreign nationals entry into the United States visa-free.

In the mid-1980′s, the US Immigration Reform and Control Act integrated the Visa Waiver Pilot Program into the United States Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The Visa waiver initiative remained a pilot program until October 30, 2000. At that time, the Visa Waiver Permanent Program Act made the program a permanent fixture of immigration law. The Visa Waiver Program’s legal foundation is stipulated in section 217 of the United States Immigration and Nationality Act. In 2007, the addition of section 711 of the INA created measures to strengthen the security of the Visa Waiver Program.

The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State, may assign a nation as a participant in the Visa Waiver program if:

  1. The nation grants similar travel rights to Americans;
  2. The nation has attested that it dispenses electronic passports that contain data storage chips;
  3. The nation started issuing such Passports to its citizens on or before October 26, 2006.
  4. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State prepare a report calculating the effect the country’s VWP authorization upon US security; and
  5. The Secretary of Homeland Security and the Secretary of State decide that the nation’s inclusion in the program will not damage American security interest, this includes issues involved in the enforcement of US Immigration law.

Who can enjoy the Visa Waiver Program?

The nationals of the following countries are eligible to enter the USA under the Visa Waiver Program: Andorra, Austria, Australia, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Republic of Korea, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom (With regard to United Kingdom Passports, Only UK passports denoted as “British Citizens” and/or “with unrestricted right of abode in the United Kingdom” are eligible for entrance to the USA under the Visa Waiver Program. Those holding passports designating that the bearer is a “British Subject,”  “British Dependent Territories Citizen,” “British Overseas Citizen,” or “British National [Overseas],” cannot enter the United States through the Visa waiver program.)

In order to enter the USA visa-free on the Visa Waiver Program an entrant must first use the Electronic System for Travel Authorization.

(Please note: Nothing contained herein should be used as legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is created by reading this piece.)


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