Although there are currently 80-something countries that don’t require any special paperwork for U.S. citizens to enter their respective land, there are well over 30 countries that require them to get a visa waiver. That number will nearly double when the 26 Schengen Zone countries will also require a visa waiver of U.S. citizens, effective January 1, 2021.
Meanwhile, citizens of nearly 40 countries and territories are eligible for visa-free entry into the United States, as long as citizens fill out a visa waiver.
Unfortunately, there are several scam websites that look very official and/or offer to “help” you fill out the electronic form, albeit for a fee on top of the actual visa waiver cost. Here’s how to avoid them and find the “official” sites for the country/countries in question.
Visa waivers can usually be done online and, if all goes well, you should get it in a couple of minutes to hours or, at worst, a day or two.
For citizens of the (currently) near 40 countries who need to fill out a visa waiver before coming to the U.S., the United States’ visa waiver program is called Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA for short). More information about it, including the application form, can be found if you click here.
If you’re a U.S. citizen and plan to travel to a country that requires a visa waiver, you usually need to fill out the form made by the said county/countries before you leave the U.S. (preferably a few days before, but even longer is ideal, in case there’s a problem). Unfortunately, there’s no standardized website to get the official information from country to country. But if you do a search for:
embassy visa waiver NAME OF COUNTRY
you should find yourself in the right direction, even of the correct page isn’t necessarily the very top hit.
Generally speaking, look for websites that include .gov. For example:
- Australia: https://usa.embassy.gov.au/visas
- Bahrain: https://www.evisa.gov.bh/VisaBhr1En.html
- Pakistan: https://visa.nadra.gov.pk/visa-on-arrival-tourist/
Generally avoid websites that end in .com, .org, etc., or that suggest they’re offering you a “service” to get your visa waiver.
If you fill out your visa waiver on one of these third party scam sites, at best they’ll submit the form on your behalf and you’ll have simply paid too much. At worst, you will have paid too much and they won’t have submitted the form on your behalf. Either way, your chances of getting reimbursed for falling for a scam site are pretty much nil, so it’s worth it to look for the official site.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary