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I am planning to come to the US for a period of 5 weeks to conduct independent research as visiting scholar in a University. I will not receive any payment, and travel and accomodation expenditures will be covered by my home university (outside US). Is it sufficient the VWP or do I need another kind of visa? During the interview if the CBP ask me which kind of business I am going to undertake, is it sufficient to answer "independent research"? thanks a lot!

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    This should be fine. That's a bit too short for an answer, which is why I'm posting it as a comment. Perhaps someone else can think of more to say.
    – phoog
    Feb 27, 2019 at 22:44
  • You might get a better answer on Academia. However, this is the sort of question that your university and the university you're visiting should both be able to give you a proper answer to. If CBP refuse you entry, you won't be able to use VWP again and will need a visa every time you visit the US. Feb 28, 2019 at 0:23
  • Thus, ESTA should be enough to be admitted, without asking for any other kind of VISA, am I right? thanks!
    – user92877
    Feb 28, 2019 at 7:21

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The Visa Waiver Program permits the same activities as a B visitor visa (B1 or B2).

The sort of short term independent research you propose is covered under B1 status and is explicitly listed as an example of a permitted activity by the US Embassy Japan (and likely many other places).

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