ESTA and the Visa Waiver Program Benefits and Limitations

August 10th, 2022

For decades, the US government has made it relatively simple for citizens from certain countries to travel to the U.S. as visitors for short periods without a visa, through its Visa Waiver Program (VWP). More recently, this program has become commonly known now as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), for the electronic system used to determine if you are eligible to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Visa Waiver Program / ESTA Advantages

Benefits to the Visa Waiver Program include, not having to obtain a visa from a US consulate prior to travel, which generally takes a substantial amount of time, even before the recent pandemic.

Also, those admitted to the US under the Visa Waiver Program may take a short trip to Canada, Mexico, or a nearby island and generally be readmitted to the U.S. under the VWP for the remainder of the original 90 days granted upon their initial arrival in the United States. The length of time of the person’s stay, including the short trip, must be 90 days or less.

In addition, individuals from Visa Waiver Program countries are able to process the ESTA Travel Authorization from any country or location, not just the country where they reside as it is the case for visa applications.

Visa Waiver Program / ESTA Disadvantages

There are however, some substantial limitations for anyone entering the United States through the ESTA / Visa Waiver program worth considering. For example, unlike virtually all other non-immigrant statuses, persons that entered with ESTA, are not allowed to change their status while in the United States, with few exceptions, to other non-immigrant visa status. This means, that a person who entered under ESTA may not file to change their status to another non-immigrant visa such an F-1 student visa or H-1b working visa; instead, they would have to travel outside the U.S. and process the visa at a U.S. consulate.

While ineligible to change to most non-immigrant statuses, ESTA does allow an individual to file for U.S. legal permanent residency in certain situations, with an I-485 petition, such as through a marriage to a U.S. citizen.

Another limitation for individuals entering under ESTA, is that they will be ineligible to have any claim or denial of a petition reviewed by the immigration court, except for asylum-related claims. This can be significant because if for instance, someone is married to a U.S. citizen and has their U.S. residency petition denied by the USCIS official, there is no legal avenue to have that decision reviewed by an immigration judge.

In addition, the length of stay allowed upon entry through ESTA cannot be greater than 90 days (vs. the maximum under a tourist visa being 6 months) and the permitted length of stay cannot be extended for any reason. This can create a number of problems when travel plans change not only due to something as serious as an illness or a pandemic but also something as simple as a weather-based travel cancellation, airline delays, missed connections, or over booked flights. Any of these could cause a person to remain in the U.S. longer than permitted resulting in unlawful presence (and should be addressed promptly with CBP- US Customs and Border Protection), which may be problematic for any other future visa applications or travel to the United States.

Finally, under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, Nationals of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) countries, who have traveled or been present on or after March 1, 2011 in Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen (with certain exceptions like military or diplomatic service of a VWP country) eligible to enter the U.S. under ESTA and are required to obtain a visa instead. The same applies to individuals who are also nationals of Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

Traveling through ESTA may not require the long-term planning that a traditional visa would, however, it still requires the traveler to be vigilant and mindful of their status and the limitations it has. If you have any questions about ESTA, non-immigrant or immigrant visas, do not hesitate to call our office and schedule an appointment with one of our experienced immigration lawyers, at: 617-303-2600, or fill out our online appointment request form.

Our attorneys can also help with any other immigrationcriminal defense or personal injury matter.

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The information contained in this Web site is general in nature and subject to change at any point in time. As such, it may not necessarily apply to all situations. Therefore, under no circumstance it should be construed as legal advice. Please ensure that you consult with an attorney regarding your specific situation before starting a legal process.

Client Reviews and Testimonials

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I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm

I really like that they speak so many languages and can help anyone!

FitzGerald Law Company recently handled my immigration case for me and everything turned out great! The staff is excellent all the way from the secretary and assistant all the way up to the attorney. My attorney was Desmond Fitzgerald himself and he was excellent.

Swarsatie R.

They have been very supportive and professional

My family and I have had an excellent experience with Desmond and his team at FitzGerald Law Company. They have been very supportive and professional, addressing our every concern. I feel fortunate to have found them and worked with them on my son's immigration case.

Yoseph A.

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Natasha A.

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Patricia M.

The service was efficient, professional and precise

I highly recommend Fitzgerald law company. The service was efficient, professional and precise. My lawyer, Juan Congote, helped me get through the green card process. I had zero problems and it was very fast. Juan was very meticulous with the documents until the very end. I really liked that!

Valerio B.

A very well organized firm, experienced and professional.

My experience was exceptionally great. A very well organized firm, experienced and professional. Customer service was excellent and the lawyer that handled my case, Desmond Fitzgerald was the best. He was very thorough and very experienced. He knows what he's talking about. All in all, I had a positive experience and I highly recommend this company, especially Desmond Fitzgerald, he's awesome.

Mike A.

They helped me with a personal injury case

Highly recommend Mr Desmond Fitzgerald and his team. They helped me with a personal injury case. He was realistic about outcomes and professional and came through for me.

Garo M.

Experienced, professional, and caring

It was a great pleasure to have Mr. FitzGerald as my attorney. He was always there when I needed him. He is experienced, professional, and caring. I would recommend his services to anyone. I greatly appreciate what he did for me and would like to take the chance to express my gratitude to his hard work. Thank you very much Mr. FitzGerald. You'r the best...

Ahmed B.

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case

Very professional and dedicated a lot of time to my case...kept me in the know throughout the whole process. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone looking for representation in a court case. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

James K.

He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly

Mr Desmond and his team did a remarkable job in immigration for my family and I. He explained things in a way that was easily understandable and things went smoothly. Highly recommended

Gassim F.

They made the process very smooth and pleasant

Desmond and his team did a great job during my husband’s green card application. Very diligent, reliable and knowledgeable. They made the process very smooth and pleasant. Highly recommended!

Karol S.

The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional

The best lawfirm in Massachusetts. The team is wonderful, efficient and very helpful/ professional.

Zulia O.

They make the process as simple as possible

Our experience with the FitzGerald Law Company is beyond positive. They make the process as simple as possible and are there to help and support the entire time. Everyone we've been in touch from their office was nice and helpful. We won the case and we would definitely use their services again. Thank you Juan & the team!

Anonymous for Firm

They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments

A very professional and committed team...They put in a lot of time into my case all the while keeping me informed of any and all developments. I definitely recommend FitzGerald Law Company to anyone seeking legal representation. Thank you Desmond and the entire team.

Anonymous for Firm

Highly recommend their services

My husband and I reached out to FitzGerald Law Company, and we can only speak very highly of them. Very professional & reliable. I want to say big thanks to Desmond and Zrinka, who helped us throughout my immigration process. Highly recommend their services!

Anonymous for Firm

They are on top of everything

The Fitzgerald team is great and ready to help. They provide accurate information and never give a false picture of one's situation. They are on top of everything and work with you. The team are very thorough at what they do. I would highly recommend their legal services.

Anonymous for Firm

I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again

The lawyer did an excellent job, it was really wonderful and inspiring to have him as a lawyer, he truly handled my case and everything went as expected. They always call or sent me an email to inform me the progress of my case, I am always feel welcomed when I meet with them. I was very happy working with them and will be happy to work with them again in the future.

Anonymous for Firm

I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer

Desmond FitzGerald and his staff handles the daunting immigration legal paperwork with the utmost professionalism but always keeping the experience personal and realistic. I always felt that that I mattered. FitzGerald & Company has many payment options and they work with you to set up a payment plan which is affordable. {para}I would definitely recommend Desmond and FitzGerald & Company to anyone looking for a professional, trustful immigration lawyer.

Anonymous for Firm