“If you come from a country with a very low visa violation rate, then you might be able to very easily visit the U.S. on an ESTA without any visa at all.“
— Brian D. Lerner, Immigration Attorney
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables most citizens or nationals of participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. Travelers must have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
If you are inadmissible on other grounds, then you will not be able to get the ESTA and should apply for a regular visa and a Waiver if necessary. The ‘Waiver’ in ESTA means that you qualify to get the ESTA, and therefore, the Visa is actually waived.
You must be a citizen or national of the to be eligible to travel to the United States under the VWP. There are many countries around the world that qualify and you just need ask your Consulate. In order to travel without a visa on the VWP, you must have authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier. ESTA is a web-based system operated by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to determine eligibility to travel under the VWP to the United States for tourism or business.
You must have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States. In addition, you must have an e-passport to use the VWP. An e-passport is an enhanced secure passport with an embedded electronic chip. The chip can be scanned to match the identity of the traveler to the passport. E-Passports must be in compliance with standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). You can readily identify an e-passport, by a symbol on the cover.