On March 31, 2014 the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) designated Chile as a country eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) making the total number of designated countries 38. Eligible Chilean passport holders with both an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and an e-passport will be able to visit the United States without nonimmigrant visitor visas starting May 1, 2014. Chileans who are interested in this program, may visit: http://chile.usembassy.gov/vwp.html.

What is the VWP?

The VWP allows citizens and nationals from the 38 participating countries to travel to the United States for periods of up to 90 days without a visa as long as the individual: (1) is traveling to the U.S. for a purpose that is consistent with the VWP, (2) is a citizen or national of a designated VWP country, (3) is authorized through ESTA, (4) is using an approved carrier, (5) does not have prior visa ineligibilities, and (6) has the correct type of passport.  DHS credits the VWP with 19.6 million visits to the U.S. in Fiscal Year 2013.

How VWP Benefits Global Companies

The VWP streamlines the process for employees of global companies to make business trips to the United States. This facilitates international business, trade, the exchange of ideas, and business deals. Business activities may include: consulting with business associates; attending scientific, educational, professional, or business convention/conferences; attending short-term training (noting limitations on U.S. remuneration), and negotiating a contract.

How is a Country Added to the VWP?

For a country to be able to participate in the VWP, requirements must first be met, which include the country’s ability to issue e-Passports, low rate (less than 3%) of visitor’ visa denial, as well as other established measures that demonstrate the country’s strong commitment to law enforcement, security, counterterrorism, and anti-fraud efforts.  Specifics regarding the VWP may be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/english/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

*Not admitted to the practice of law. Prepared in coordination with Martha J. Schoonover.