Countries which don’t need a US visa (the Visa Waiver Program)

I’ve received some interesting comments to my US Embassy post(s) and as a result, I’ve wondered which countries are spared the ignominy of applying for the “overrated” US visa. My Google quest of course led me to the US Department of State website which has a portion dedicated to the US government’s Visa Waiver Program (VWP). The VWP is the program where nationals of certain countries can travel to the United States without a visa provided they plan to only stay “for 90 days or less for tourism or business.”

Only three countries in Asia are in the list: Japan, Singapore, and Brunei. Most are in Europe, the Pacific (Australia, New Zealand) and I still have to consult Wikipedia to know exactly where Andorra is :P Of course, if it makes you feel better, there are 174 other countries in the world which are not in the list and have to get their b*tt to the US Embassy each time.

The full rundown of VWP participating-countries:

Andorra, Iceland , Norway, Australia, Ireland, Portugal, Austria, Italy, San Marino, Belgium, Japan Singapore, Brunei , Liechtenstein, Slovenia, Denmark , Luxembourg, Spain, Finland, Monaco, Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, New Zealand, United Kingdom.

Countries which have signed a Memorandum of Understanding and where the full implementation of VWP is under review: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovakia.

Initial reaction to the list: we’ve always prided ourselves of centuries of friendship with Americans and I wonder why been we’ve been “outshone” by Slovenia, Slovakia and the rest of them.

At first glance, it seems that economic wealth of the country is used as a basis for visa waiver but most are in the low population category too (think of the Republic of San Marino which only has a population of 30,000 people, or Lichtenstein and Monaco).

Considering that the requirements for admission under the program is “a very low non-immigrant refusal rate,” the integrity of the passport process (no fakes), and the ability to address security/law enforcement threats, looks like the Philippines will not be in the program in a hundred years. Tsk, tsk!

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17 comments

  1. Marnie says:

    Hi Ajay,
    My husband and I applied for a visa to go to the US to visit his family in the ’90s. We were holders of Philippine passports but were based in Sydney, Australia at that time because my husband was a graduate student in one of the universities here. We were also given a hard time but because of the perseverance of my husband’s supervisor’s secretary, we were granted a visa (she had to write to the US embassy to assure them that my husband is returning to Australia after the trip). Fast forward, 10 years later, we’re now Australian citizens, no need for visa to go to US for pleasure. Now that we’re able to visit the US any time we want, it’s not as inviting because of all the security measures we have to go through each time. Isn’t that ironic?

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  2. Jayred says:

    Hi, Annalyn. Hope all is well with you.

    Sigh — the travails of Philippine passport holders…

    I had been subjected to all forms of discrimination when I traveled abroad in the ’90s and, yes, even now.

    But I still love my green passport, no matter what.

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  3. Kpax says:

    The Philippine passport is one of the most faked because it allows you access to most ASEAN countries. And if you are a businessman doing a lot of travel in the Asian region, it would be one of the best passports to have since you can apply for this special business card that allows you expedited entry to countries such as HK. If you research, there are also plenty of countries that Filipionos can visit without a Visa, but only offers limited stays to Americans.

    Will we ever get a waiver? I doubt it. They’ll let in more people first to help stimulate their raped economy. Will the clerks ever get nicer? I doubt it, not unless they face a similar predicament on the other side of the fence. We all hope that they’ll be nicer…well, we can hope.

    Just watch La Visa Loca. Should at least give you a laugh on the whole process. I wonder if those clerks (and yes, they are clerks, not consuls) were taught to be rude?

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  4. Richard says:

    I think greed is the key to who gets in and who doesn’t. The Philippines was part of the US and has been a very good ally.
    Switzerland also is greedy and won’t just let ‘anybody’ in.
    These are not the only two of course.

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  5. jomz says:

    Yah it’s inviting to see the other side of the fence. But Philippines is the greenest country (mindanao) on earth, Manny the “Pacman” always hurry to come home.

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  6. Mr Z says:

    Hey Jomz, it’s not really about “the other side of the fence” anymore – we have relatives in the States, and if we can’t get past NIV/Embassy Gatekeepers, we’ll have to visit separately, as Anna and the children won’t be able to accompany me whenever I travel to the States.

    The kids have already seen how good my Mother is at spoiling children, so this is really a crushing blow to them, am sure.

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  7. M Tam says:

    Hi Ajay. It is also worth noting Canada. Because it enjoys special relationship with the US, it is not a member of the VWP. For Canadians, you can fly or cross (by land or water) into the US by simply showing your Canadian Passport. You do not need to complete US Immigration and Customs forms unlike US Visa Holders or even VWP passport-holders. At US airports, you also have the same line up with US passport-holders. Until recently, oral declaration of Canadian citizenship is all you need when going to the US.

    However, Canadian passport enjoys “real” higher respect than US passport when travelling abroad (go figure). Although, US Passport (#3) is higher by one notch than a Canadian Passport (#4) in the Henley Index (http://www.henleyglobal.com/citizenship/visa-restrictions/), Canadians are more admired. Even Americans would wear (pretend to be one) stuff with the Canadian flag. Other respected passports are that of the Danes and Finns (ranked#1), Irish (ranked#2), Swiss (ranked#9) and the British (ranked#6).

    The Philippines? Not even mentioned, but probably It’s somewhere around #75, above North Korea (#83) and China #79).

    Afghanistan is last at #89.

    Caveat: The ranks of Portugal, USA, Belgium, Spain and France may be misleading and should have been one or two notches lower (in my opinion) due to former colonies exempting them from entry visas.

    For a complete list, go to:

    http://www.henleyglobal.com/citizenship/visa-restrictions/

    Suggested visa-free destinations for Philippine passportholders: Brazil (90 days), Israel (90 days) and the beautiful Kish Island (owned by Iran, but visa-free travel allowed ).

    I hope this information is helpful.

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  8. M Tam says:

    Addendum:

    By the way, Malaysia enjoys visa-free access to 145 countries, Singapore to 150, Brunei to 101 (including Japan, USA, Schengen and Canada) and believe it or not, the poor countries of Bolivia, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala enjoy more than 80 countries for visa-free travel.

    So why are we at 50 something only?

    Over Population? Yes.

    Because we tend to export most of our labour force? Yes.

    Because the Philippines is not seen as a strategic economic and diplomatic partner? Yes.

    Because of poverty? Yes

    Because of political corruption? Yes

    Because of Filipinos’ tendency to overstay? Most Filipinos would deny this, but a resounding yes!

    And who suffers? The bonafide Filipino traveler.

    Solution: We need to replicate the success of South Korea. South Korea was like the Japan of the early-80′s. Now it is a powerhouse.

    We need to incent graduates to stay in the country and help in the nation building. The government needs to spend more money for research grants (like Japan) versus lining the pockets of corrupt politicians (like the Ampatuans).

    We need to limit nursing schools — convenient ticket to “abandoning” the country. FOREX remittances are only short-term solutions. We need to invest instead into Science and Tech (like Singapore).

    We need to trim down the fat off our bloated bureaucracy. It is so outrageous that we have so many politicians for a tiny country like the Philippines. And the number of new towns and cities seem to grow every year.

    Then you have these politicians for life — i.e. governors maximizing their allowed terms of offcie, then run for vice governor to get around that and then run for governor again. Worse, you have congressmen and mayors also maximizing their allowed terms, then have their wives run for the post while enjoing a rich vacation, and then run again.

    The Philippines is the only country where you check the daily news headlines and you will only see 3 themes: Politics, Disasters and Movie Stars. About time we need real good news!

    Oh boy …. I can go on and on … the list is too long………………….

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  9. patrick n tan says:

    kung nais/kelangan kong pumunta ng U.S. at alam ko ng pahirapan kumuha ng visa, di bale mahirapan sa process..

    oo nga at merong mga bagay na nandun sa kanila at wala sa atin, mayroong mga mas masarap/maganda na wala sa atin.. VICE VERSA ang sistema jan :D

    pero ang sarap maging pinoy :)

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  10. Mike says:

    I still think the Philippines should be a part of the US because no matter who we put in power, they are all corrupt. We were given our independence but what did we do with it? Make the politicians rich and the country suffer? If they can’t do it right, we might as well give it up and give the people a chance to live properly and not in poverty.

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  11. fair flower mejor says:

    I would like to know if Sri langka needs visa… what I know before it doesnt need to have a visa for tourist… but I read some topics in the internet that just last january visa is required

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