Coming to the US
Visa waiver program
Visiting the US under the "Visa Waiver Program"
Belgian visitors in general enter the United States without a visa sticker
in their passport on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Implemented in 1988, this program allows
visitors of several countries, including Belgium, to stay in the US for
tourism or business purposes, for up to ninety days, without a visa.
After an evaluation of almost two years, the U.S. Attorney General John
Ashcroft, decided on March 1, 2003, to continue the Visa Waiver Program
for Belgian visitors. This decision was made for several
countries presently participating in the Visa Waiver Program.
Belgian visitors can therefore continue to visit the U.S. without a visa on the
condition that they
hold a new Belgian passport, having a machine-readable zone. Visitors should also be able to show proof of sufficient funds
to cover their travel expenses and have a return airline ticket.
What is the difference between the old and new type of Belgian passport
The new passport has a machine-readable zone and is in use since
one year. The machine-readable zone consists out of a series
of letters, numbers and symbols at the bottom of the identity page under the photo of
the holder. New passports also contain other security measures such
as a microperforated photograph. This is a new technique only used
in Belgium which ensures that the Belgian passport is now one of the most
tamper-resistant passports in the world.
What is the effect of this new requirement on Belgians traveling to the
United States ?
After May 15, 2003, Belgian visitors seeking to enter the United States
must present a machine-readable passport in order to be admitted under the
Visa Waiver Program as a temporary visitor for business or for pleasure.
Holders of the old type passport have two options:
1. Request a new passport with a machine-readable zone and enjoy entry
under the Visa Waiver Program.
2. Request a non-immigrant visa at the U.S. Embassy in Brussels in your old
passport. Your visa sticker will then contain machine-readable
Entry under the Visa Waiver Program
At check-in in Brussels-Zaventem or during the flight to the USA, the passenger
will receive a green "I-94W" form (departure record) which the US immigration official will validate upon
entry in the United States. On this card will be written the date of entry and the
duration of stay allowed (never more than 90 days!).
The VWP imposes certain restrictions, please contact the US Embassy in Brussels and
request a detailed list of the conditions and restrictions of the Visa Waiver
Program. 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 US
immigration official if this official decides to deny entry to the foreign visitor;
- the visitor cannot change his/her status while in de US on the VWPP, for example by registering
for courses. A change of status can only be obtained at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad;
- the VWP allows visits of up to ninety days, no extensions are possible while in the USA,
except for a serious medical condition.
For more information, visit the official VWP website at:
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.
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.