What is the Visa Waiver Program and how was it born?
The Visa Waiver Program, also known as the “entry visa exemption programme” in Italian, was established in 1986. The initiative’s initial goal was to promote tourism in the United States for short-term business visits.
However, following the terrorist events on September 11, 2001, the US government temporarily halted the programme. As a consequence, the programme enters a new phase, with extra limits and controls in place to counteract potential terrorist risks.
In 2006, the electronic System for Travel Authorisation, or “electronic travel authorization system,” was also born. The electronic travel authorisation is now one of the program’s pillars. Indeed, ESTA permits you to enter the United States without a physical visa in your passport, as part of the Visa Waiver Program.
In turn, the terrorist events in Paris in November 2015 prompted the programme to implement further restrictions. As a result, it has been obligatory since then to notify US authorities of any past travels to specific nations.
All the benefits of the Visa Waiver Program
Citizens of participating nations, such as Italy, gain significantly from the initiative:
- The ability to stay in the United States for up to 90 days. The travel is confined to tourist, business, transportation, and medical appointments.
- There is also the opportunity to visit US territory such as Guam, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and the Mariana Islands.
- Multiple entries and a validity period of two years from the date of approval of the travel authorisation. If the passport’s residual validity is less than two years, the authorisation will be valid until the passport expires.
- Electronic travel permission is now accessible in a matter of hours, eliminating the need to visit a consulate or the American embassy and wait weeks for a tourist visa. Everything is completed entirely online.
Visa Waiver Program: which countries are participating?
The VWP now has 39 nations participating. Countries with a high human development index and high GDP are often included in the programme.
All participating nations also let US residents to enter their countries’ territory without a visa. Electronic permission may be necessary in some circumstances, such as Australia.
The list of all countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program may be found on a dedicated and up-to-date page.
Citizenship, residency and visa-free travel
Only nationals of programme nations can use ESTA to travel to the United States. This implies that only Italian nationals are eligible to participate in Italy’s Visa Waiver Program.
As a result, it is not feasible to go to the United States with simply an Italian residency permit and an ESTA. You will need to apply for a tourist visa if you are not a citizen of one of the programme countries.