Monday, 11 January 2016 13:09

Visa Waiver Program Changed

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The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States without a visa for up to 90 days. A valid Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) prior to travel is required.

The Visa Waiver Program is used for a number of purposes from tourism to taking a non-degree short course of study to negotiating a contract. However, studying for credit or actually being paid to work in the United States is not permitted. Tourists who want to stay longer than 90 days should apply for a B2 visa, and there are special visas for students, or those who want to work an live in the United States. For example, an internationally known artist may apply for an O visa, citizens of Mexico and Canada may apply for a TN visa if they have certain qualifying occupations, others may find a company to sponsor them with the H1B visa, and the E2 or L1 visa may be a path to operating a business in the United States.


Because there are many variables depending on the goals of the visa applicant and the eligibility requirements, it is important to seek the counsel of an immigration attorney before making a decision. A mistake can have long term implications.

The Visa Waiver Program was changed on December 18, 2015 with the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2029) in three ways:

1) Individuals present in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan on or after March 1, 2011, or other countries designated by the Department of Homeland Security) are ineligible for the Visa Waiver Program. Certain exemptions and waivers may be granted by the Department.

2) Nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan are excluded from the VWP.

3) New conditions for VWP countries, such as passport security requirements, information sharing and protocols for screening are imposed.

Iran, in particular, has reacted to the changes since many tourist and business travelers from around the world would be affected. Some have criticized H.R. 2029 saying that it conflicts with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which reads, “The EU and its Member States and the United States, consistent with their respective laws, will refrain from any policy specifically intended to directly and adversely affect the normalization of trade and economic relations with Iran.”

However, Secretary of State John Kerry has given assurances to Iran that the United States is committed to the sanctions lifting provided for under the JCPOA.

Read 482 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 August 2017 13:36

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