Travel Update: Changes to Visa Waiver Program
The Trump administration has announced new rules in place for the 38 countries participating in the U.S. Visa Waiver Program (VWP). On December 15, 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would be rolling out enhanced security measures for the VWP as part of the administration’s ongoing counterterrorism efforts. The new rules will target the screening and vetting protocols of the 38 participating countries.
For example, tighter screening and security measures will be put in place at airports in the VWP countries. This will include using U.S. intelligence on suspected terrorists and criminals to screen airport employees, as well as travelers entering the VWP country from third countries. DHS will also be implementing new measures aimed at curbing the number of overstays. In addition to existing penalties, which bar a traveler from using the VWP if they have previously overstayed, DHS will begin forcing countries with overstay rates above 2 percent to conduct public awareness campaigns aimed at educating that country’s citizens of the consequences of overstaying.
Visa Waiver Program Overview
The VWP allows citizens of participating countries to travel to the U.S. for tourism or business without first obtaining a visa and for a maximum period of 90 days. There are, however, a few requirements:
- The purpose of your trip must be to participate in a B-1 (business visitor) or B-2 (tourist visitor) permitted activity. This may include attending business meetings, negotiating a contract, visiting friends, etc.;
- You must be a citizen or national of a VWP designated country. For a complete list of VWP countries, please visit the State Department website at https://travel.state.gov;
- You must have an e-Passport. An e-Passport is an enhanced secure passport embedded with an electronic chip containing all the traveler’s biographic information; and
- You must receive authorization under ESTA. In order to travel under the VWP, every individual is required to seek authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to boarding a U.S.-bound air or sea carrier. For more information about ESTA, please visit the CBP website at https://Users/davidlewis/Sites/berardi/app/public.cbp.gov.
The VWP makes traveling to the U.S. easy and convenient for millions of people each year, but not everyone is authorized to use it. For example, individuals that have traveled or have been present in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 are not permitted to participate in the VWP. That rule applies regardless of an individual’s status as a citizen or national of a participating country. In addition, dual nationals of a VWP country and Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria are also not permitted to travel without a visa under the VWP.
If you are interested in visiting or working in the United States, please contact our office to schedule a consultation with one of our knowledgeable attorneys today!