Do you need a visa to the United States?

Published on: Tuesday, May 16, 2017

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The short answer is yes, unless you are a citizen from one of the 36 countries listed in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for stays up to 90 days.

36 countries in the VWP are: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovenia, Slovakia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Kingdom[1].

For eligible nationals of these 36 countries, you still must obtain ESTA-authorisation prior to your travel. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorisation. The cost is $14 per application. To apply, go to esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta.

Also, it is important to note that if you have visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, or are also nationals of these countries, you are not eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a US visa.

Can you give me a few examples?

Example 1: if you’re a Malaysian citizen living and working in Singapore, and are a Singapore permanent residence, you need to apply for a visa to the United States. In this case, you can either apply for B1 (business visa), or B2 (tourism and visit).

Example 2: if you’re a French national living and working in England, and you have not been to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after 1 March 2011, you can visit the US without a visa, but must apply for ESTA online.

Example 3: if you’re an Australian living and working in Dubai, and have been to Iran last year, you must apply for a B1 (business visa) or B2 (tourism and visit) at the nearest US consulate or embassy.

Transit

All passengers transit in any of the US airports must also obtain a transit visa. This does not affect qualified travellers travelling visa-free under the Visa Waiver Program.

How to Apply

Send your application to the nearest US consulate or embassy. You’re required to go for an interview as well. The cost is about US$160. The processing time varies from country to country. You can always check the most up-to-date information on this https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/general/wait-times.html page.

Anything else you need to know about?

Check the United States of America Visa & Passport Requirements page for detailed information, including if you need to have a return ticket, what should you do if you’re travelling to the States with your children, and other useful information.

Travelling to the USA

Apart from travel visa, it is important to check health risks and vaccinations, along with money and duty free information.

[1]Only United Kingdom passports notated with “British Citizens” and/or “with unrestricted right of abode in the United Kingdom” are eligible for VWP admission. Holders of passports indicating that the bearer is a British Subject, British Dependent Territories Citizen, British Overseas National or British National (Overseas) do not qualify for the VWP.