What changes just happened with the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of certain countries to travel to the United States without a visa for business visitation or tourism visitation purposes for stays of 90 days or less. The VWP is used instead of a B1/B2 visa.

Not everyone is eligible to use the VWP. Each person wanting to use the VWP must register with the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA), https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta/, and obtain an approval before travel.

As of December 18, 2015, the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2029) was made a law. The law contains provisions that change the VWP and some of them took effect on December 18, 2015. A couple of those changes are:

  1. Individuals who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan (or other countries designated by DHS) at any time on or after March 1, 2011, are not eligible to participate in the VWP. Exemptions exist for those performing military service in the military forces of a VWP country or those who are carrying out official duties in a full-time capacity in the employment of a VWP country government. DHS may allow a person to use the VWP program if it would be in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States.
  2. Individuals also excluded from the VWP are those who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan. Nationality usually depends on the laws of the country, so keep in mind that an individual may be a national of a particular country, even if he or she has never resided in that country or does not have a passport issued by that country.

If you have any questions regarding immigration, please feel free to call me, immigration attorney Shawn Mesa at (813) 679-5780.

Disclaimer: This information is provided as a public service and not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on this information is taken at your own risk.

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