Visiting the U.S. under the "Visa Waiver Program"
The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows Belgian citizens to apply for entry into the United States as visitors (traveling for holiday and/or business) for a maximum duration of 90 days without first obtaining a non-immigrant business/tourist visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Belgians who transit through the U.S. (i.e. on a plane that lands on U.S. soil) should consult with the American Embassy in Brussels to find out whether a visa is needed.
To apply for entry into the United States under the Visa Waiver Program, the traveler must meet each of the following conditions:
- You must have a valid machine-readable passport issued by one of the participating VWP countries and be a citizen (not merely a resident) of that country. The passport must be valid for at least the duration of the stay in the U.S. Children, even babies, need their own, individual machine-readable passport. If your current valid passport has this symbol on the cover, indicating it has an electronic chip, it is valid for Visa Waiver Program (VWP) travel. If your passport does not have the symbol, it may not be valid for VWP travel and the issuance/renewal date is important.
- If the machine-readable passport was issued or extended between October 26, 2005 and October 26, 2006, it must have a digital photograph OR an integrated computer chip.
- Machine-readable passports issued or extended on or after October 26, 2006 require an integrated chip.
An emergency passport does not have the symbol on the cover; this passport does not contain a chip. This passport is not eligible for VWP travel: you will need a visa to travel to the U.S.
For more detailed information please check the website of the U.S. Embassy in Brussels: U.S. Embassy in Belgium.
What is the difference between an old and a new passport:
- Non-Biometric Belgian passports with a machine-readable zone
- Biometric Belgian passports with a machine-readable zone
1. Non-biometric Belgian passports with a machine-readable zone can be identified by:
- the words "European Union" on the cover;
- the fact that the photograph is on the left-hand side of the page and is printed;
- a page explaining security details.
2. Biometric Belgian passports with a machine-readable zone can be identified by:
- a small symbol on the cover:
Since late 2004, Belgium has been issuing biometric passports incorporating an electronic chip. These meet the high technological and security standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). During this first phase, in accordance with international agreements, the chip contains information such as the passport holder's identity, signature and photograph, i.e. information which is visible to the naked eye on page 2 of the passport. During this initial phase, fingerprints are not yet included on the chip.
Remember: Keep your passport in a safe place and treat it with care to avoid damaging the electronic circuit (avoid bending or cutting and exposure to extreme temperatures, magnetic fields, microwaves and so forth).
Visiting the United States with a valid Visa
Visitors who enter the U.S. for reasons other than tourism or business for a maximum of ninety days, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Brussels and obtain the proper entry visa sticker. These visitors will not be allowed in the U.S. without the proper visa.
Visitors traveling with a passport that is not machine-readable also need to contact the U.S. Embassy in Brussels and obtain a non-immigrant visa.
The above-mentioned visitors will receive a visa sticker in their Belgian passport. At check-in at the airport or during the flight, they will receive a white "I-94" card which the U.S. immigration official will validate upon entry. The card will indicate the duration of stay allowed under that particular visa. In this case also, the visitor should not overstay the duration of stay indicated. However, it may be possible to obtain an extension of stay while in the U.S. Please contact the local Immigration and Naturalization Office for details.
Entry under the Visa Waiver Program
At check-in in Brussels or during the flight to the U.S., the passenger will receive a green "I-94W" form (departure record) which the U.S. immigration official will validate upon entry into the United States. The date of entry and the duration of stay allowed will be written on this card.
The VWP imposes certain restrictions; please contact the U.S. Embassy in Brussels and request a detailed list of the Visa Waiver Program’s conditions and restrictions. Some of the restrictions are:
- young people may not accept employment including au-pair jobs and may not take language courses
- the visitor's luggage should not contain any documents or material that could indicate that they intend to seek employment during their visit
- the entry on the VWP does not allow the prospective visitor to appeal the decision of a U.S. immigration official if this official decides to deny entry to the foreign visitor
- the visitor cannot change his/her status while in the U.S. on the VWP, for example, by registering for courses. A change of status can only be obtained at a U.S .Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Under the VWP your stay in the U.S. can never be longer than 90 days. No extensions are possible while in the U.S. During your stay in the U.S. it is not possible to obtain a change of status.