Coming to the US
Visa waiver program
Electronic System for Travel Authorization
ESTA is an electronic registration system requiring travelers who
are part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) – 27 countries
including Belgium – to register before boarding a plane or cruise
ship destined for the United States.
The ESTA program entered into force as of January 12, 2009. Registration
may be done by third parties (travel agencies, family, friends). As of 8
September 2010 ESTA is no longer free. The total fee for a new or renewed
ESTA will be $14.00. All payments for electronic travel authorization
applications must be made by credit card or debit card when applying for
or renewing an ESTA at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov. The ESTA system currently
accepts only the following credit/debit cards: MasterCard, VISA, American
Express, and Discover. Your application will not be submitted for processing
until all payment information is received.
Registration should preferably be done 72 hours prior to the
beginning of a trip but it is in principle possible to register at any
moment before departure. A last minute departure for the
United States will always be possible.
Registration is valid for 2 years and for multiple entries. It is
possible to bring your data up-to-date at any time. An answer
will be given immediately in the majority of cases.
The person who does not receive authorization will need to go
to an embassy or a consulate to apply for a visa. The ESTA
authorization does not mean moreover that access to the
United States is guaranteed.
The ESTA program does not apply to Belgians who are holders
of a visa for the United States. Registration should be done on
the following site: esta.cbp.dhs.gov
Visiting the US 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:
1. 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
2. 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.
3. 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:
What is the difference between an old and a new passport:
1. Non-Biometric Belgian passports with a machine-readable zone
2. 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.
This new policy for Belgian travelers will go into
effect after May 15, 2003, and is the result of stricter rules for entry
into the United States with stricter control on visitors to the United
States. All passports are carefully checked and machine-read by
the American immigration authorities at the point of departure to the
Visiting the United States with a valid Visa
Visitors who enter the US for other reasons than tourism or business for maximum ninety days,
should contact the US Embassy in Brussels and obtain the proper entry visa sticker. These
visitors will not be allowed in the US without the proper visa.
Visitors traveling with a passport that is not machine-readable also need
to contact the US Embassy in Brussels and obtain a nonimmigrant visa.
Above visitors will receive a visa sticker in their Belgian passport. At check-in in the
airport or during the flight, they will receive a white "I-94" card which the US immigration
official will validate upon entry. The card will indicate the duration of stay allowed
under that particular visa. Also in this case, the visitor should not overstay the
duration of stay indicated. However, it may be possible to obtain an extension of stay
while in the USA. Please contact the local Immigration and Naturalisation Office for details.
If you stay longer in the United States than allowed, you should know that this may have
serious consequences. Those visitors who overstay, may be barred from visiting the US for
a period of three to ten years, depending on how long the illegal stay is.
Visitors who are refused entry at the border, may be barred from visiting the US for
a period of five to twenty years.
Please note that US Immigration and Naturalization Officials have to respect the rules
and regulations of the US Immigration Laws and that it is their job to prevent illegal
immigration. A visitor who is denied entry in the US, will be detained at the border or
in the airport of entry and will be deported to his/her home country.
Exit/Entry Formalities in the USA
Questioning by officials of US Immigration or Customs Authorities or by a Security Official
is not always a pleasant experience, especially when the visitor speaks no or broken English.
Please answer questions truthfully and comply with requests to look through luggage.
Do NOT under any circumstance while entering or leaving the United States joke about carrying
weapons or having bombs or dynamite in your luggage. You will most likely be detained,
handcuffed and taken to prison to await a bond-hearing before a judge. The US government
does not take bomb threats lightly and does not consider any statement which could threaten
the safety or security of the USA and its citizens - even one made in fun - as a joke.
Laptops may be detained and examined at the U.S. border. Federal agents have the right
to examine and detain laptops and other electronic devices (hard disks, iPods, memory sticks,
cell phones, audio and video cassettes) for an unspecified period when a traveler enters
the U.S. This practice is part of ordinary border control and does not indicate, from
the perspective of the authorities, that you are under any particular suspicion.
When problems do arise because of a lack of understanding, please ask to be allowed to make
a phone call. You may always call "collect" and should try to contact the nearest Belgian
Consulate or the Belgian Embassy or call a friend or family member with the request to call
the Embassy or Belgian Consulate.
Please make a copy of the internet homepage with the addresses and phone numbers of the
Belgian Embassy and the Belgian Consulates in the USA and keep this information with you in
case the need arises.
It is also important to know that almost all Belgian visitors enter the United States and have
a pleasant entry and a wonderful stay. However, in some instances because of a lack of
understanding or communication, problems may occur. We hope the above information will
help make you an informed visitor and we wish you a pleasant trip.