US visa waiver scheme clampdown begins

US visa waiver scheme clampdown begins

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A clampdown on travellers to the US using the visa waiver scheme started today (Thursday) as part of tougher measures to combat terrorism.

People seeking to enter America from countries allowed under visa waiver arrangements will now have to apply in person for a visa if they have been in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria since March 2011.

Nationals from the four countries will also have to apply for visas under the US ‘Terrorist Travel Prevention Act’ which was passed last year.

Additionally, travellers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorisations (Estas) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries will have their Estas revoked.

According to the US State Department, categories of travellers who may be eligible for a waiver include: ·

  • Individuals who travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of an international organisations, regional organisations, and sub-national governments on official duty;·
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty; and·
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;·
  • Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and·
  • Individuals who have travelled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

The Department said: “Any traveller who receives notification that they are no longer eligible to travel under the VWP are still eligible to travel to the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa issued by a US embassy or consulate.

Such travellers will be required to appear for an interview and obtain a visa in their passports at a US embassy or consulate before travelling to the United States.

“The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of visa waiver programme travellers will not be affected by the legislation.

“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.”

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