US Implements Stricter Visa Waiver Program Rules

January 22, 2016

As reported in the New York Times and many other news publications,  the U.S. has tightened the Visa Waiver Program in light of the recent attacks in Paris that will make it more difficult from nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria (as well as recent visitors to those countries) to be able to enter the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program.

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
  • Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular appointment process at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.  For those who require a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. Embassies and Consulates stand ready to handle applications on an expedited basis.

If an individual who is exempt from the Act because of his or her diplomatic or military presence in one of the four countries has his or her ESTA denied or revoked, he or she may go to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) website, www.cbp.gov or contact the CBP information Center, http://www.cbp.gov/contact.  The traveler may also apply for a nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Certain other travelers who fall under this restriction may qualify for a waiver of the requirements.  More information about possible waivers is forthcoming.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection strongly recommends that any traveler to the United States check his or her ESTA status at https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/ prior to making any travel reservations or travelling to the United States.  More information is available at www.dhs.gov/visa-waiver-program.


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