The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) is a United States government initiative that allows passport-holders from Ireland to enter the United States without a visa. Ireland is part of the list of VWP countries which allows this type of travel. Irish citizens travelling to the United States under the VWP must travel by air or sea and have an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application. Visitors with an approved travel authorisation do no longer need to complete Form I-94 when arriving in the U.S., as this information is collected electronically.
Visa Waiver program countries are for example chosen partially based on their very low rates of visa refusals for non-immigrants and the strength of their own passport security. Below is more information on how a VWP country can qualify.
To be qualified as a potential VWP country, the country has to:
To reduce paperwork for travellers visiting the United States for tourism and short-term business, and to allow the DHS to tackle border risk issues, the Visa Waiver Program was created in 1986.
In July 1988, the United Kingdom was the first country to receive visa waiver status. The UK was followed by Japan the same year in December, and France, Italy, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, and West Germany joined in October 1989. Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, New Zealand, Norway, San Marino, and Spain were included in 1991. The program has expanded regularly since then, with Brunei, Ireland, Australia, Slovenia, Portugal, and Singapore. Some countries have been removed, such as Argentina in 2002, and Uruguay in 2003.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Bush administration tightened the Visa Waiver Program’s requirements, and as of October 2004, travellers were required to show a machine-readable passport. The requirement was changed to biometric or electronic passports in October 2006.
In 2009 it became mandatory to apply for ESTA online. Pre-screened travellers would be approved for travel to the United States for 2 years with the same travel authorisation.