Making The American Dream Attainable

Visa Waiver Program

There are various different ways foreign nationals may lawfully enter the United States. 

Some offer extensions of stay and change of status, while others do not. The visa waiver program was set up as a fast way for those interested in short periods of travel to the United States without requiring a formal visa.

The visa waiver program currently includes 37 countries, and more are expected to be added in the future. Only those countries that meet certain criteria, most notably a past history of low refusal rates for visas, qualify under the program. The alien is required to have a return trip ticket that will transport the individual out of the United States at the time of the authorized stay period ends, unless the person will return to an adjacent territory where air travel is not required. The applicant must show there are social and economic ties to their home country, or entry can be refused.

There are restrictions on employment activities permitted by the entrant.

The person is not permitted to engage in gainful employment, though some types of employment, such as performers, and taking part in business meetings may be considered acceptable activities with this type of entry. A visitor may enter the United States from a visa waiver country for a period of 90 days or less.

The alien must be carrying a valid passport from a country currently recognized by the program.

While visiting the United States, there is no extension of status available, therefore the individual must depart as required to avoid potentially harsh consequences. Further, by using the visa waiver program, the alien waives any right to administrative and judicial review or appeal of a U.S. immigration officer’s determination as to his or her admissibility. This, unfortunately, means that the alien does not have the ability to have his or her day in court to contest deportation/removal process, except when the entrant has a credible fear of returning to his/her country, also known as an asylum applicant.

In other words, an alien can be returned to his/her country upon any violation of the visa waiver program, which includes overstaying a visa.

Since there are some strict rules related to the visa waiver pilot program, it is often recommended that an individual enter the United States by using a visa whenever possible.

Cynthia Waisman, attorney focuses her practice in the area of immigration law. For more information, call our Tampa Bay Area offices at 727-219-9009.

Certain issues render a person inadmissible to the United States and may prevent a person from receiving a visa to enter the United States. The grounds for inadmissibility vary.