Changes to the Visa Waiver Program

Congress has passed new regulations that will change the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for foreign travelers to the United States.  Under the new law, individuals who are nationals of or who have been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria at any time since March 1, 2011, will be required to obtain visas in order to travel to the U.S.  The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) will also review VWP countries on an ongoing basis and may restrict other countries from participation in the VWP from time to time.

Under the current VWP, nationals from the 38 VWP countries may obtain an online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) approval to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without needing to obtain a visitor visa.  Beginning April 1, 2016 all VWP travelers will be required to have fraud-resistant electronic passports (e-passports) that contain biographic and biometric information.

Travelers using the VWP should expect additional screening measures in the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application and lengthier processing times.  Individuals who may no longer qualify for a visa waiver under this new law, should begin to initiate applications for B-1/B-2 visas.