Visa Waiver Program Update

In December 2015 the US Congress passed the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 and yesterday the US Departments of Homeland Security and State issued implementation guidance effective immediately. Our office has already received several calls on this new act and it seems there is a lot of confusion out there regarding the new requirements. In a nut shell the changes to the Visa Waiver Program (“VWP”) set out two factors that make a person who holds a Visa Waiver Program country passport ineligible to travel under the VWP which are:

  • Nationals of the VWP who have traveled 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); or
  • Nationals of VWP who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria. 

The fact that these individuals can no longer travel to the US visa free under the VWP does not mean they are ineligible for a visa to visit the US. Instead, these individuals would need to apply for a visa at a US Embassy or Consulate outside the US to apply for a visa to enter the US.

Those who fall in to one of the categories above and who had an approved Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) will now have their current ESTA revoked.

For more details, please see the update posted on the US Department of State web site

For general information about the Visa Waiver Program, please see the US Department of Homeland Security web site.

Any traveler who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States if they apply for and are issued a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a U.S. embassy or consulate. Such travelers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a U.S. embassy or consulate before traveling to the United States.

An updated ESTA application with additional questions is scheduled to be released in late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic- and military-related travel provided for in the Act.

If you are affected by these changes and would like specific advice about your eligibility to apply for a US visa, please call our office to book a consultation with one of our US Visa lawyers at 020 7092 6830.