Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), announced on February 28, 2014 that DHS had designated Chile into the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”). Chile will soon be part of a group of 38 total countries that participate in the VWP.
The VWP allows citizens of designated countries to travel to the US without first obtaining a B-1/B-2 temporary visitor visa at a US consulate. Although the Visa Waiver Program has certain benefits, such as eliminating the visa stamp requirement, the program also carries with it a number of burdens. Importantly, the program allows an applicant to enter the US for only up to 90 days, whereas the traditional B-2 tourist visa allows a stay of up to 6 months. Extensions of this 90-day period are not allowed. The VWP also requires the foreign national to waive his or her right to an immigration court hearing.
Starting May 1, 2014 eligible Chileans will be able to travel to the US without a visa on the VWP. Like other VWP entrants, eligible Chileans who enter on the VWP will have to have valid passports and will need to complete the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), among other requirements.