Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of certain countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. VWP eligible travelers may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. Not all countries participate in the VWP, and not all travelers from VWP countries are eligible to use the program.

Effective Jan. 12, 2009, citizens or nationals from all VWP countries will be required to obtain an approved travel authorization via ESTA to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP.

WT/WB Status
Upon entry into the U.S., visitors are given either a WT (waiver-tourist) or a WB (waiver- business) status that will be indicated on the I-94 Arrival Departure Record. There are two restrictions on visa waiver status that potential users should be aware of:

The 90-day stay in the U.S. cannot, in any circumstances, be extended. It is never possible to change from the visa waiver status to any other non-immigrant status without departing from the U.S. However, in some circumstances, an individual may adjust status to that of a permanent resident via Family Based immigrant petitions.

Which countries participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP)?
Participating countries are subject to change, so it’s best to check with the U.S. Department of State for the most current information http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html.

When can you become a Citizen?

Every year before a Presidential Election, I get calls from clients asking when & how they can become citizens. ¬†Assuming that you do not have a parent who is a US Citizen, the following applies with regards to “when” you can file.

1) If you gained permanent residency (your Greencard) through marriage to a US Citizen (filed an I-130), you can file for your Citizenship by filing an N-400. Technically you can file after you have been a permanent resident for 2 years and 9 months since you receive Permanent Resident status (Remember, in almost all marriage based petitions, you are required to remove the conditions, and this must be approved prior receiving Citizenship).

2) If you gained Permanent Residency any other way, you can file after being a permanent resident for five (5) years.

A side note: If you’ve had any criminal issues, or have previously claimed to be a US Citizen, it is very important that you discuss this with a competent Immigration Lawyer BEFORE filing.