Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables qualifying nationals to travel to the United States for tourism or business stays for up to, but not exceeding, 90 days without a visa. If you qualify to travel via the Visa Waiver Program you must fill out the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) *.

You may qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Program if:

  • You are citizen of one of the following countries: Portugal, Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, or the United Kingdom.
  • You plan to stay in the United States for 90 days or less.
  • You are traveling temporarily for tourism, business, or medical treatment.
  • You have obtained an ESTA authorization prior to departing for the United States.*
  • You hold a return or onward ticket. If the onward ticket terminates in Canada, Mexico, Bermuda or one of the Caribbean Islands, you must be a resident of that country in order to travel through the United States without a visa.
  • If you make side trips to Canada, Mexico, Bermuda and/or the Caribbean Islands, they must be within the 90-day period.
  • If arriving by air or sea, you are traveling on an approved carrier (Approved Carriers). (PDF 230KB)
  • You can NOT extend the duration of your stay.
  • You can NOT accept paid or unpaid employment.
  • You can NOT change your visa status.

You do NOT qualify to travel under the Visa Waiver Program if:

  • You plan to study.
  • You plan to stay in the United States longer than 90 days.
  • You have a criminal record.
  • You have a communicable disease like tuberculosis.
  • You have previously been refused a visa, deported, or have been denied entry into the United States.

If you meet all the requirements for the Visa Waiver Program, you do NOT need to apply for a visa.

If you are unsure whether or not you qualify for VWP or want further information, please use these resources:

*You are not required to have specific travel plans to the United States before applying for an ESTA authorization. However, it is recommended that an ESTA approval be obtained as soon as a VWP traveler begins to plan a trip to the United States and no later than 72 hours before departure. Accompanied and unaccompanied children, regardless of age, are required to obtain an independent ESTA authorization and determination of eligibility.

Visa Waiver Program/ESTA and Travel to the United States

Electronic passports have this symbol on their cover.

The U.S. Embassy wishes to remind all Portuguese who are able to travel to the United States via the Visa Waiver Program that as of 01 April 2016, they must have a valid electronic passport. This rule applies even to those who possess a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). The U.S. Embassy strongly recommends that all travelers check to ensure their passports are valid electronic passports before they make arrangements to travel to the United States on the Visa Waiver Program.

You can check if your passport is valid for travel under the VWP by carefully readingthe following page: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

Any traveler who does not have a valid electronic passport is still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States. Information on visa applications can be found at: http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html

January 21, 2016

United States Begins Implementation of Worldwide Changes to the Visa Waiver Program

The United States today began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) welcomes more than a million passengers arriving to the United States every day and is committed to facilitating legitimate travel while maintaining the highest standards of security and border protection. Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at the U.S. Embassy. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, the U.S. Embassy stands ready to process applications on an expedited basis.

Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.

Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:

  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of an international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

Again, whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the terms of the law. In addition, we will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan. Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.

The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation.

The Act also calls for all VWP travelers to have an electronic passport (e-Passport) by April 1, 2016. It is recommended that all travelers check their passports to ensure they have an e-Passport. An e-Passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. E-Passports are issued by the proper passport issuing authority and must meet international standards for securing and storing information corresponding to the passport and bearer.

Current ESTA holders are encouraged to check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP’s website at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ 

To apply for a visa, please check information on this page: https://pt.usembassy.gov/visas/nonimmigrant-visas/

More information regarding the Visa Waiver Program is available at http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html