News

US implements visa waiver changes

21 Jan 2016 by BusinessTraveller

The US has made changes to its Visa Waiver Programme (VWP), restricting its usage to travellers who have dual nationality with, or have recently visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.

The new restrictions – which have been implemented under the Visa Waiver Programme Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 – come into effect today (January 21, 2016).

They mean that nationals of countries participating in the VWP, who have dual nationality with Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, may no longer use the programme to enter the country.

The restrictions are also extended to any travellers from VWP-participating countries who have visited one of the above countries since March 1, 2011.

Travellers falling into either of the categories above will now have to apply for a regular US visa with their embassy or consulate.

The announcement lists the following exceptions, with the caveat that “Whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis”:

  • Individuals who travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of an international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty
  • Individuals who travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty
  • Individuals who travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes
  • Individuals who travelled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015)
  • Individuals who have travelled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes

It adds that “The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travellers will not be affected by the legislation”.

The new restrictions – which were passed by Congress late last year – have caused much debate on our forum. To join in the discussion click here.

esta.cbp.dhs.gov

Mark Caswell

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