The United States is one of the world’s most-visited countries. While some people enjoy visa-free travel to the United States, most of the world’s population requires a visa before traveling to the United States.

Many western countries and developed nations are part of the Visa Waiver Program. If you’re one of 38 countries on the Visa Wavier Program list, then you do not need a visa to visit the United States in most situations; instead, you can apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Your ESTA can be completed online in minutes and requires much less work than a visa.

However, not everyone from a Visa Waiver Program country is able to apply for an ESTA. Meanwhile, citizens of every other country in the world do require a visa before visiting the United States.

Who Needs a Visa to Enter the United States?

The vast majority of the world’s population requires a visa before entering the United States. If you’re a citizen of one of the following 156 countries, then you’ll need a visa to enter the United States:

Afghanistan Albania Algeria
Angola Antigua and Barbuda Argentina
Armenia Aruba Azerbaijan
Bahamas Bahrain Bangladesh
Barbados Belarus Belize
Benin Bhutan Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina Botswana Brazil
Bulgaria Burkina Faso Burundi
Cambodia Cameroon Cape Verde
Central African Republic Chad China
Colombia Comoros Democratic Republic of the Congo
Costa Rica Cote d’Ivoire Croatia
Cuba Cyprus Djibouti
Dominica Dominican Republic East Timor
Ecuador Egypt El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Ethiopia
Federated States of Micronesia Fiji Gabon
Gambia Georgia Ghana
Grenada Guatemala Guinea
Guinea-Bissau Guyana Haiti
Honduras India Indonesia
Iran Iraq Israel
Jamaica Jordan Kazakhstan
Kenya Kiribati Kuwait
Kyrgyzstan Laos Lebanon
Lesotho Liberia Libya
Macedonia Madagascar Malawi
Malaysia Maldives Mali
Mauritania Mauritius Mexico
Moldova Mongolia Montenegro
Morocco Mozambique Myanmar
Namibia Nauru Nepal
Nicaragua Niger Nigeria
Oman Pakistan Palau
Panama Papua New Guinea Paraguay
Peru Philippines Poland
Qatar Republic of the Congo Republic of Korea
Republic of Kosovo Romania Russia
Rwanda Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia
Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Samoa Sao Tome and Principe
Saudi Arabia Senegal Serbia
Seychelles Sierra Leone Solomon Islands
Somalia South Africa South Sudan
Sri Lanka Sudan Suriname
Swaziland Syria Tajikistan
Tanzania Thailand Togo
Tonga Trinidad and Tobago Tunisia
Turkey Turkmenistan Tuvalu
Uganda Ukraine United Arab Emirates
Uruguay Uzbekistan Vanuatu
Vatican City Venezuela Vietnam
Yemen Zambia Zimbabwe

 

If your country is on the list above, then you need a visa. There are few practical exceptions to this rule: even the Prime Ministers and Presidents of various countries require a visa to visit the United States!

Citizens of Visa Waiver Program Countries

As mentioned above, there are 38 countries in the world where most citizens do not require a visa to visit the United States. These countries are part of America’s Visa Waiver Program.

If you’re from a Visa Waiver Program country, then you still require an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). This online application can be completed and approved within minutes prior to visiting a port of entry in the United States.

If you have a criminal record or if there is any other reason to deny your entry to the United States, then your ESTA may be rejected. In other cases, your ESTA may be approved today, only for you to get rejected at the port of entry into America. Getting an ESTA does not guarantee entry into the United States.

Some Citizens of Visa Waiver Program Countries Require a Visa

In January 2016, the United States began enforcing stricter rules for citizens of Visa Waiver Program countries. Namely, certain citizens of these countries are no longer able to get an ESTA. Even if you’re a lawful citizen of Australia, the UK, Germany, or any other country on the list above, you might be required to get a visa.

The main exceptions to this rule are:

  • You may require a visa if you have been in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, or Yemen since March 1, 2011
  • You have dual nationality with Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria

If you meet either of the above conditions, then you may not be able to receive your ESTA. Instead, you may have to get a traditional U.S. visa – even though you’re a citizen of a Visa Waiver Program country.

Citizens of Canada, Bermuda, Micronesia, the Marshall Islands, and Palau Do Not Need a Visa or ESTA

There are two countries in the world that do not require a visa or ESTA to visit the United States: Canada and Bermuda. Three additional countries – Micronesia, Palau, and the Marshall Islands – also have a unique agreement with the United States allowing visa-free travel.

Citizens of Canada and Bermuda can freely travel (temporarily) to the United States without requiring a non-immigrant visa or ESTA. If you’re a citizen of Canada and Bermuda, then you can arrive at an American port of entry with no pre-entry authorization or prior paperwork required.

Canadian Citizens: Canadians can enter and stay in the United States visa-free. Some Canadians do not even require a passport. If you’re part of the NEXUS program or have an Enhanced Driver’s License, then you may be able to enter America without a passport. SENTRI enrollment cards and FAST cards can also be used in lieu of a passport (if entering by land or sea). Canadians can remain in the United States for up to six months.

Bermudian Citizens: Bermudians can enter and stay in the United States visa-free for up to 6 months.

The Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau: If you’re a citizen of the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, and Palau, then you can also enjoy visa-free travel to the United States. The United States signed an agreement called the Compact of Free Association (COFA) with these countries.