The United States today will begin implementation of changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for travel from the 38 eligible markets. The new changes do not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation.
With these changes, the following travelers are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP, and instead must apply for a visa:
- 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 immigration process at U.S. embassies or consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis.
Travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked. Any traveler who receives such notification is still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate.
The Department of Homeland Security may waive the travel restrictions on a case-by-case basis if it is determined that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interest of the United States. But those waivers are not currently available.
Additional questions about travel and eligibility for the exception for diplomatic and military purposes, along with waivers for some travel purposes will be available in the new ESTA application in late February. If you have to travel before that time, it is recommended that you apply for a visa.
Current ESTA holders should check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP’s website, cbp.gov. Additional information on visa applications can be found at travel.state.gov. A list of all U.S. Embassy and consulate websites is available at usembassy.gov.
All entry and visa related questions should be directed to your local U.S. embassy and consulate.