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U.S. Visa Waiver Program versus the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program

Updated: Apr 17, 2024  | Tags: Visa Waiver Program, ESTA, Guam-CNMI

When planning a trip to the United States, understanding the various travel authorization programs is crucial. Two important programs for short-term visitors are the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program. This article will explore the differences and similarities between these two programs.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP)

The Visa Waiver Program is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It allows citizens of 41 participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism, business or transit purposes of up to 90 days or less without obtaining a visa.

Travelers under the U.S. VWP must apply for authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), an online system that pre-screens travelers against various security databases. The VWP encompasses travel to all U.S. states and territories.

The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program

The Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program is specific to the territories of Guam and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI). This program allows visa-free entry for travelers from certain countries for a stay of up to 45 days in either Guam or the CNMI.

Unlike the VWP, the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program doesn't require an online pre-authorization. Instead, travelers provide their information upon arrival at the airport or seaport immigration control.

Key differences between the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program

While both programs offer visa-free travel to parts of the U.S., there are several key differences:

Geographic Coverage

The most significant difference is the geographic area covered. The U.S. VWP applies to the entirety of the U.S., including all states and territories. In contrast, the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program only covers the territories of Guam and the CNMI.

Length of Stay

The U.S. VWP allows stays of up to 90 days, while the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program permits stays of up to 45 days.

Eligible Countries

While some countries are eligible for both programs, the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program has a different list of eligible countries, which includes several Asian nations not covered by the U.S. VWP. The U.S. VWP countries include the following: Andorra, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brunei, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Malta, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, United Kingdom.

Application Process

The U.S. VWP requires travelers to obtain an ESTA approval prior to their travel, while the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program doesn't require an online pre-authorization.


Both programs are designed to facilitate tourism and short-term business activities, allowing visitors to enter the U.S. without the need for a visa. They are part of U.S. efforts to promote tourism, enhance diplomatic relations, and increase economic growth.

Making the Right Choice

The choice between the U.S. VWP and the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program depends on your destination and nationality. If you're visiting states within the U.S., the U.S. VWP is the appropriate program, provided you're from a VWP eligible country. However, if you're visiting Guam or the CNMI and come from a country eligible for the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program, then this program would be the most convenient for you.


While both the U.S. Visa Waiver Program and the Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program offer travelers visa-free access to U.S. territories, they serve different purposes, have different application processes, and cover different geographical areas. Understanding these differences is crucial in determining which program best suits your travel needs. As always, it is advised to check with the appropriate U.S. government websites or consult with a travel or immigration expert to make sure you have the most up-to-date and relevant information for your travel planning.