The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) combines a strong security process with our nation’s long-standing desire to attract both business and leisure travelers to our shores. Eligible residents of allied countries are rigorously pre-screened and vetted against multiple law enforcement and security databases before approval is given for visa-free travel to the United States for up to 90 days. They also must obtain preauthorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for entry into the United States.

Quick Facts

To be part of the VWP, countries must agree to, and uphold, the following security measures:

  • Share information about known or suspected terrorists and criminals with U.S. authorities, as well as maintain high standards for transportation security, border security and document integrity.
  • Allow U.S. inspections of their security standards, protocols and apparatus to ensure compliance with the highest security practices.
  • Enter data on all lost and stolen passports into INTERPOL’s Stolen and Lost Travel Documents (SLTD) database. No such requirements exist for countries that do not participate in the VWP.
  • Issue machine-readable passports that conform to stringent international aviation security standards. For countries admitted since 2007, e-passports are mandatory. 
  • Comply with information-sharing agreements with the United States on travelers who may pose a terrorist or criminal threat and on lost and stolen passport reporting.
  • Screen individual using programs like the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a flight to the United States.

The United States conducts comprehensive reviews of all VWP countries, at least every other year, to ensure ongoing compliance. Such reviews can result (and have resulted) in membership revocation or other conditions placed on a country’s membership in the program.

Recent data released by DHS found that less than one percent (0.60%) of travelers from VWP countries overstay their expected departure, lower than the overstay rate of visitors from non-VWP countries (1.9%). 

An overwhelming majority of national security experts believe that the VWP is a pivotal contributor to protecting the American homeland and public, ensuring a strong and secure nation. It is also plays an important role in U.S. foreign relations and in bolstering the American economy.

The VWP is instrumental to facilitating international travel to the U.S., which is America’s number one services export. Overseas visitors (international visitors other than those from our next-door neighbors Canada and Mexico) spend billions of dollars that support American communities and generate tax revenues that support essential services like public schools and fire departments. 


In 2016, 22 million visitors to the U.S.—60 percent of all overseas visitors—arrived through the VWP. While visiting the U.S., they generated $100 billion in travel exports for the U.S. economy, supporting nearly half a million American jobs.

The U.S. travel community believes unwaveringly in a security first posture: After all, without security, there is no travel.

Recommendations

Strengthen and Evolve the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program should continuously be evaluated and evolved to reflect the ever-changing security landscape. The 2015 omnibus funding package included sensible security enhancements that will be implemented this year. Provisions such as better information-sharing among intelligence and law enforcement agencies, screening of all travelers against INTERPOL databases and increased use of fraud-resistant e-passports that contain biometric information will make our nation safer while keeping America’s doors open to international visitors.

Quick Facts

  • 1.2

    B

    Total number of international travelers in 2016
    The world travel market measured at 1,235 million in 2016; the U.S. was the second-largest destination with 75.6 million international visitations.
  • 37.6

    M

    Number of overseas visitors to the U.S. in 2016
    At 37.6 million, half of total international visitations to the U.S. came from overseas in 2016; the U.K. and Japan were the top overseas inbound travel markets.
  • $4,400

    average each overseas traveler spends while visiting the U.S.
    Overseas visitors represent 46 percent of all international arrivals, stay on average 18 nights, and account for 80 percent of total international travel receipts.

Research, News and Commentary on Visa Waiver Program

Policy: Image of the Capitol steps, Washington, DC

Travel Community Welcomes Official Confirmation of VWP Security Benefits

May 04, 2017

During the proceedings, several lawmakers, State Department, and Department of Homeland Security officials made important comments about the value of the VWP, as well as the importance of having robust CBP staffing at ports of entry.

Read More
Poland International Country Report Cover

Poland: Summary Inbound Travel Market Profile (2015)

December 21, 2016

One-page summary profile describing visitations and spending by Polish travelers in the U.S.

Read More
Israel Country Report Cover

Israel: Summary Inbound Travel Market Profile (2016)

January 26, 2018

One-page summary profile describing visitations and spending by Israeli travelers in the U.S.

Read More
The American flag, DHS flag, and Border Patrol flag flying high in McAllen, Texas.

U.S. Travel Salutes Departing DHS Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas

October 05, 2016

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow issued the following statement on the Department of Homeland Security’s announcement that Alejandro Mayorkas will step down as deputy secretary.

Read More
Visa Reform Issue

U.S. Travel Association Statement On H.R. 5203 – Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016

May 25, 2016

Ahead of the bill’s markup in committee today, the U.S. Travel Association issued the following statement on H.R. 5203, the Visa Integrity and Security Act of 2016.

Read More

U.S. Travel Reacts To Brussels Terror Attacks

March 22, 2016

America’s travel community is outraged and saddened by the despicable terror acts in Belgium.

Read More
1
2
3
4
5
6