Visa Waiver Program Arrivals Statistics Between 2014 and 2018

Published on: Feb 11, 2020, Last Edited: Jun 14, 2020 | Tags: ESTA Arrivals Statistics, Visa Waiver Program

Introduction

The U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP) arrivals statistics by country of citizenship from 2014 to 2018 have been analyzed and consolidated in this article. These statistics are released on an annual basis by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the results for 2019 are still being processed. This article will share some of the findings discovered on meaningful results extracted from the data during the reviewed period.

What Visa Waiver Program Arrivals do the numbers include?

Visa Waiver Program for the United States

The United States administers its Visa Waiver Program through the Department of Homeland Security. The system used facilitate the process of issuing visa waivers is the ESTA, which stands for Electronic System for Travel Authorization. These are broken down into two categories:

  • Temporary visitors for pleasure (WT) - This is the most common category of VWP arrivals traveling on an ESTA for tourism or leisure purposes.
  • Temporary visitors for business (WB) – This is the category of VWP arrivals visiting the United states for business.

Visa Waiver Program for Guam and The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)

This report contains data from the Temporary visitors for pleasure or business to Guam or Northern Mariana Islands. Arrivals statistics for this category are included unless otherwise noted.

Since 2009, the United States has managed the immigration functions of Guam and The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, although visits to these territories is not managed through the ESTA. Instead the U.S. issues visitors an I-94 on arrivals to these territories. DHS also reports on the arrivals statistics for travelers visiting these territories. The 39 countries eligible for the U.S. VWP are eligible to apply for a visa waiver to Guam and The Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), as are nationals of Hong Kong, Malaysia, Nauru and Papua New Guinea.

Number of U.S. VWP Arrivals Increased Year-Over-Year

The total number of VWP arrivals increased each year from 2014 to 2018. The largest year-over-year increase took place in 2016, when there was a 2.92% increase in arrivals through the VWP when compared to 2015. The lowest increase took place in the year prior, 2015, where the increase in arrivals from 2014 was a modest 0.33%. The table below shows the total number of VWP arrivals per year for just the U.S. ESTA VWP Arrivals for tourism (WT) and business (WB) travel.

Year

U.S. ESTA VWP Arrivals (WT and WB only)

Percentage Growth Y-o-Y

2018

22,831,551

2.32%

2017

22,313,867

2.22%

2016

21,828,341

2.92%

2015

21,208,668

0.33%

2014

21,138,091

-

 

South America has the Largest Increase in Arrivals by Region

South American passport holders traveling under the VWP increased by 528% between 2014 and 2018. This increase may be largely attributed to the addition of Chile to the VWP on March 31st 2014. Arrivals holding passports from VWP eligible Asian countries increased at the second highest rate of 10.38% between 2014 and 2018, while arrivals traveling with a European passport under the VWP increased by only 4.56% during the same period.  A full table of arrivals by region and year-over-year growth is shown below.

Year

Region

U.S., Guam and CNMI VWP Arrivals

Percentage Growth Y-o-Y

2018

Asia

6,385,584

-1.11%

2018

Europe

15,548,234

2.69%

2018

Oceania

1,757,794

-0.66%

2018

South America

315,703

17.49%

2017

Asia

6,457,303

6.14%

2017

Europe

15,141,486

0.23%

2017

Oceania

1,769,553

3.13%

2017

South America

268,704

18.83%

2016

Asia

6,083,747

5.39%

2016

Europe

15,107,039

2.05%

2016

Oceania

1,715,904

2.18%

2016

South America

226,127

37.94%

2015

Asia

5,772,628

0.69%

2015

Europe

14,804,108

-0.44%

2015

Oceania

1,679,277

1.63%

2015

South America

163,928

226.28%

2014

Asia

5,732,953

-

2014

Europe

14,870,210

-

2014

Oceania

1,652,353

-

2014

South America

50,241

-

 

South Korea and Chile Lead the Way with Highest Increases in VWP arrivals

VWP arrivals from Chile increased by 528% from 2014 to 2018. South Korea took second place with an increase in 67.62% over the same period. In terms of highest absolute numbers, the United Kingdom had the most arrivals at 22,670,501 during the five years reviewed and Japan was close behind at 18,529,770.

Most Popular States Overall

The top three most popular states for U.S. VWP arrivals were New York, California and Florida. Each state consecutively held its position in the top three over the entire 2014-2018 period reviewed. Together, the top three most popular states for arrivals averaged to about 46.5% each year from 2014-2018. The top three states have a lot to offer for tourist and business visitors, hence their popularity will not come as a surprise. The least popular states for arrivals were Mississippi, South Dakota and West Virginia, most likely due to their lack of strong transport links or appeal for tourist or business visitors.

States Experiencing Highest Growth of VWP Arrivals

Rhode Island has experienced the greatest percentage growth in Visa Waiver Program arrivals, increasing 38.46% from 2014 to 2018. Tennessee took second place during the same period with a growth of 31.43%. Third place goes to Utah with an increase of 23.46%. Although the states experiencing the highest growth did not make the top three, or even top ten most popular states for VWP arrivals, it is interesting to see the high growth of business (WB) and tourism (WT) visitors these states.

State

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Grand Total

Growth

New York

3,924,304

3,957,599

4,081,347

4,256,055

4,413,431

20,632,736

12.46%

California

3,048,692

3,187,496

3,413,268

3,584,736

3,720,362

16,954,554

22.03%

Florida

2,921,085

3,106,583

3,320,805

3,373,660

3,368,152

16,090,285

15.30%

Unknown

3,336,757

2,887,593

2,506,586

2,941,419

2,399,313

14,071,668

-28.09%

Hawaii

2,031,190

2,028,292

2,037,332

2,191,750

2,250,078

10,538,642

10.78%

Guam

956,577

1,096,436

1,250,028

787,149

1,152,002

5,242,192

20.43%

Nevada

784,616

803,227

850,201

875,402

836,445

4,149,891

6.61%

Texas

536,579

545,495

655,252

594,144

612,983

2,944,453

14.24%

Massachusetts

506,908

499,014

526,336

535,978

560,340

2,628,576

10.54%

Illinois

462,781

466,631

480,686

495,351

505,542

2,410,991

9.24%

Washington

437,673

444,797

450,571

468,391

497,679

2,299,111

13.71%

New Jersey

373,028

383,663

401,243

421,920

449,087

2,028,941

20.39%

Georgia

227,892

239,366

248,272

263,817

263,741

1,243,088

15.73%

Pennsylvania

188,468

191,286

192,431

192,586

204,764

969,535

8.65%

Michigan

187,570

185,781

185,679

188,028

187,966

935,024

0.21%

District of Columbia

193,742

187,677

176,013

191,640

180,668

929,740

-6.75%

Colorado

173,182

182,823

176,265

180,667

194,346

907,283

12.22%

Virginia

149,771

153,828

156,688

157,976

154,609

772,872

3.23%

Nebraska

181,450

190,311

204,580

75,580

54,268

706,189

-70.09%

Arizona

134,309

132,198

159,230

136,732

136,767

699,236

1.83%

North Carolina

113,855

119,017

126,700

129,806

129,889

619,267

14.08%

Maryland

105,992

109,988

119,892

119,946

119,022

574,840

12.29%

Louisiana

105,653

101,918

106,066

109,213

125,591

548,441

18.87%

Other

62,800

36,296

60,826

102,739

241,366

504,027

284.34%

Ohio

97,068

97,809

100,317

102,099

105,525

502,818

8.71%

Oregon

85,309

92,913

100,188

104,601

101,594

484,605

19.09%

Connecticut

79,647

80,168

83,931

88,757

89,058

421,561

11.82%

Minnesota

  77,826

76,564

82,092

83,959

86,460

406,901

11.09%

Tennessee

67,326

71,429

78,310

83,232

88,488

388,785

31.43%

Utah

60,888

62,642

74,161

76,063

75,170

348,924

23.46%

Alaska

67,494

66,080

58,575

56,402

61,149

309,700

-9.40%

Indiana

53,399

56,298

60,062

61,308

62,241

293,308

16.56%

South Carolina

55,134

54,679

55,635

61,656

65,736

292,840

19.23%

Wisconsin

53,205

53,108

55,644

56,307

59,761

278,025

12.32%

Alabama

53,767

54,840

51,348

47,312

51,739

259,006

-3.77%

Puerto Rico

44,786

52,429

 70,058

61,852

26,084

255,209

-41.76%

Missouri

39,128

39,731

40,463

42,686

41,795

203,803

6.82%

Maine

31,565

32,644

31,764

33,376

32,957

162,306

4.41%

New Hampshire

29,072

29,485

32,051

32,252

33,156

156,016

14.05%

Kentucky

27,816

28,322

33,919

32,233

31,548

153,838

13.42%

Vermont

30,070

29,127

26,439

27,461

26,817

139,914

-10.82%

Montana

26,639

25,480

22,673

25,798

25,504

126,094

-4.26%

Rhode Island

18,787

20,131

20,562

23,405

26,012

108,897

38.46%

New Mexico

18,577

17,000

24,731

19,042

17,775

97,125

-4.32%

Iowa

18,984

18,269

19,039

19,526

19,332

95,150

1.83%

Oklahoma

17,740

16,729

18,401

16,453

17,021

86,344

-4.05%

Idaho

14,730

16,539

16,826

17,672

17,516

83,283

18.91%

Kansas

16,428

16,385

18,009

16,468

15,923

83,213

-3.07%

Arkansas

13,800

15,464

16,155

14,206

13,609

73,234

-1.38%

Delaware

13,835

14,328

14,313

14,269

14,308

71,053

3.42%

Wyoming

11,074

11,286

10,812

12,934

11,580

57,686

4.57%

North Dakota

15,313

11,191

9,092

8,439

8,443

52,478

-44.86%

Mississippi

10,130

10,514

10,031

10,748

10,780

52,203

6.42%

South Dakota

6,189

6,053

5,675

5,969

5,769

29,655

-6.79%

West Virginia

5,157

4,989

5,244

5,876

6,054

27,320

17.39%

[1] Includes American Samoa, Northern Mariana Islands, U.S. Virgin Islands, and U.S. Armed Forces posts.

Busiest and Most Quiet Months to Visit the U.S.

Looking at the months for through the calendar year; January, February and November are the periods where the U.S. was least visited by VWP eligible travelers. The busiest periods are in the summer months of July and August, as well as the fall months of September or October. Looking back at previous years, these findings hold through from 2014 to 2018.

Month

2014

2015

2016

2017

2018

Grand Total

January

1,358,123

1,369,184

1,466,094

1,498,040

1,504,422

7,195,863

February

1,450,994

1,476,567

1,591,248

1,575,825

1,602,422

7,697,056

March

1,696,984

1,793,210

1,916,659

1,747,891

1,962,736

9,117,480

April

1,989,469

1,830,234

1,834,961

2,103,454

2,026,869

9,784,987

May

1,867,337

1,959,455

1,890,223

1,913,783

2,023,215

9,654,013

June

1,899,073

1,853,673

1,929,896

1,964,464

1,981,281

9,628,387

July

2,264,637

2,297,624

2,336,061

2,363,046

2,409,369

11,670,737

August

2,340,180

2,242,867

2,372,453

2,441,156

2,428,729

11,825,385

September

2,071,911

2,064,099

2,163,666

2,131,401

2,182,881

10,613,958

October

2,092,584

2,109,563

2,222,440

2,239,200

No data

10,674,046

November

1,620,817

1,659,280

1,734,750

1,717,064

No data

8,293,581

December

1,819,627

1,862,713

1,940,796

1,929,127

No data

9,347,383

Grand Total

22,471,736

22,518,469

23,399,247

23,624,451

18,121,924

115,502,876

 

What Types of Travelers Visit the U.S.?

The following table shows the proportion of visitors by gender and age group in 2018. It can be seen from the results that for females, the most likely arrivals are between the ages of 25-29. For men, the most prevalent age group represented are between 45-49 years of age. For both male and females, children under the age of 9 are least likely to visit the United States when compared to other age groups. This is most likely due to the difficulty’s parents may experience when traveling internationally with babies, toddlers or children.

Age Group

Female VWP Arrivals

Male VWP Arrivals

Grand Total

45 to 49 years

964,467

1,353,876

2,318,343

30 to 34 years

1,186,890

1,324,155

2,511,045

40 to 44 years

933,889

1,305,233

2,239,122

35 to 39 years

973,698

1,286,598

2,260,296

50 to 54 years

961,129

1,264,804

2,225,933

25 to 29 years

1,287,333

1,120,935

2,408,268

65 years and over

1,035,793

1,039,560

2,075,353

55 to 59 years

799,546

972,617

1,772,163

60 to 64 years

650,309

693,229

1,343,538

20 to 24 years

896,213

676,498

1,572,711

15 to 19 years

620,487

534,000

1,154,487

10 to 14 years

463,440

463,290

926,730

5 to 9 years

360,567

366,769

727,336

Under 5 years

230,581

233,208

463,789

Unknown age

844

797

1,641

Grand Total

11,365,186

12,635,569

24,000,755

 

Conclusion

Now that 2019 has concluded, we await the results from DHS regarding the latest arrivals data. It remains to be seen if the release of the 2019 arrivals immigration statistics from DHS will continue to show an increase in the number of arrivals via the Visa Waiver Program. Some of the trends witnessed from 2014-2018 may continue, however it is unlikely there will be much change to the busy and quiet periods of VWP arrivals, nor will there likely be a change to the popularity of the New York, California and Florida hold as the top three most visited states for U.S. VWP arrivals.

Data Reference

  1. https://www.dhs.gov/

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