Visa Waiver Program

Visa Free Travel

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the United States without a visa for stays of 90 days or less.

As of 1 April 2016 all travelers from Switzerland and other qualifying countries must hold an electronic passport to be eligible to enter the United States visa-free.  This rule applies even to those who possess a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

Visa Waiver Program Conditions

You may travel visa free if you meet all of the following requirements:

  • You are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country;
  • You have completed an on-line ESTA registration and received approval for visa waiver travel;
  • You have a passport that is valid for at least 6 months after your planned departure from the United States (unless exempted by country-specific agreements). Swiss passports are automatically extended for six months from the date of expiration.
  • You are traveling for business, pleasure or transit only;
  • Your intended stay in the US does not exceed 90 days.
  • You will enter the US aboard an air or sea carrier that has agreed to participate in the program. This applies to most airlines and shipping companies.  You will need a visa if you travel on a private plane, official aircraft, yacht or other vessel.
  • Additional conditions for eligibility in the Visa Waiver Program may apply, depending on your planned method of transit to the United States.

For up-to-date, detailed information on the Visa Waiver Program; which countries participate; and conditions for use, please see the Department of State Visa Waiver Program page.

For Switzerland-specific information on applying for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), see information at the website of our visa processing partner.

If you are already familiar with VWP requirements, you may access the ESTA application on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection page.

Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular appointment process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate. Certain exceptions may be available for individuals who have traveled to these countries for purposes of official (government-to-government) business.  For travelers who require a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. Embassy Bern stands ready to handle applications on an expedited basis.

If you are a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country, but have received notice that you are no longer eligible to travel to the United States under that program, you should apply for a nonimmigrant visa at least three months in advance of your desired travel date.  If you do not have imminent travel plans, you should pay the nonimmigrant visa application fee, fill out the DS-160 nonimmigrant visa application form at ceac.state.gov/genniv/, and schedule a visa appointment.  If your travel is imminent, you may request an expedited visa appointment. Please include in your request the date and purpose of your travel, as well as a copy of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection message you received regarding your ESTA status.

See further application instructions on the website of our application processing partner: http://www.ustraveldocs.com/ch/.