Resources > Section 17 > J-1 Visa Application & US Entry > Exchange visitor (J-1) visa
#17-30Visa Waiver Program & ESTAPDFReturnURL
After being accepted to a BridgeUSA J-1 Exchange Visitor by a designated sponsor and issued Form DS-2019 and SEVIS ID, prospective exchange visitors will apply for a J-1 visa at a US embassy or consulate (Canadians apply for J-1 status at a US port of entry).
Citizens from 40 countries on the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) are allowed to travel to the United States for “business, tourism, visiting or pleasure” for stays of 90 days or less without a visa. ESTA stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It is an online system that determines the eligibility of visitors to travel to the United States under the VWP.
Citizens from countries on VWP are allowed to enter the States for up to 90 days for business (WB status) or tourism (WT status) provided that they have e-passport, register through Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), and meet the standard VWP conditions.

ESTA is NOT for people who wish to intern or receive training the United States. To intern or receive training in the US, foreign nationals apply to and be accepted to State Department’s BridgeUSA (J-1 visa) EVP through a designated sponsor and apply for a J-1 visa.

Exchange visitors who are eligible for ESTA may visit Canada or Mexico after their program has ended during the grace period and return to the States on ESTA (as their J-1 visa would have expired by then) to fly back home. ESTA applications may be submitted at any time prior to travel and apply through

VWP is administered by the DHS in consultation with the DOS.

Can VWP country citizens intern in the US without a J-1 visa?
No, VWP is for visitor visa purposes. VWP nationals who wish to study, intern, or receive training in the US are ineligible for ESTA. To intern or receive training in the US, one must apply for and obtain a J-1 visa through a designated sponsor.

Who aren’t eligible to apply for ESTA?
ESTA is not applicable to people who (a) have been arrested, (b) have serious communicable illnesses, (c) have been refused admission into or deported from the US, (d) have overstayed on the VWP, (e) have travelled to Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia and Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions), (f) are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Sudan, or Syria, and (g) plan to study, work, or remain in the US for longer than 90 days or envisions that they may wish to change their status once in the United States.