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The U.S. Visa Waiver Program Adjusts Due to Terror Climate

On January 21st, 2016, about seven weeks after two self-proclaimed ISIS affiliates perpetrated a terrible attack that left 14 dead and 22 seriously wounded in the City of San Bernardino, California, the United States announced that changes to the Visa Waiver Program would be implemented immediately.

The legislative framework of this adjustment is known as the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015. This change will impact the following travelers:

–      Citizens of Visa Waiver Program nations who have traveled or spent time in Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan after March 2011.

–      Citizens of Visa Waiver Program nations who hold dual citizenship or were born in Iran, Iraq, Syria, or Sudan.

In essence, the immediate change is that the above-mentioned travelers can no longer take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program. They can still apply for a visa, which will require them to visit their nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. According to the provisions of the act, the State Department will try to expedite the application process for travelers whose visits are of a humanitarian nature, or whose reasons for travel include urgent medical care.

In addition to the Visa Waiver Program restrictions, the U.S. has also revoked the Electronic System for Travel Authorization passes of the above-mentioned travelers.

Although the amendment to the program may seem stringent, travelers should take note that waivers may still be granted under certain conditions. For example, journalists who traveled to the countries above for work purposes, or travelers who entered those countries as part of humanitarian relief missions, military duties, or government business. Learn more about business immigration here.

In February, the Customs and Border Protection service plans to release a new application for the Electronic System for Travel Authorization. This new application will provide exceptions for military and diplomatic travel.

As expected, the changes have been met with consternation. A Republican representative from Florida plans to introduce legislation to undo the changes and censure President Obama. Thus far, a BBC journalist who was born in Iran has complained that she was prevented from entering the U.S. just a couple of days prior to the official announcement.

To learn more about this change or for help with other immigration issues, reach out to Kazmi & Sakata Law in San Diego. We are trusted San Diego immigration lawyers and have been helping both individuals and corporations for more than a decade. Call (858) 874-0711 and request a free consultation today.

October 2023