Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act

On January 21, 2016, the United States began implementing changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to, or been present in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and/or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011 are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP. Dual nationals of VWP countries and Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Sudan are also no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP.

These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular process at U.S. Embassies or Consulates. For those who need a U.S. visa for urgent business, medical, or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. Embassies and Consulates stand ready to process applications on an expedited basis. For information on how to apply for a visa, please see here.

This restriction does not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in any of those countries was to perform military service in the armed forces of a VWP country, or in order to carry out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of a VWP country.

The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive this VWP restriction if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Such waivers will be granted only on a case-by-case basis. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:

  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and/or Yemen on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, or sub-national governments on official duty;
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and/or Yemen on behalf of a humanitarian non-governmental organizations (NGO); and
  • Individuals who have traveled to Iraq, Iran, Syria, Sudan, Libya, Somalia, and/or Yemen 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 traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

An updated ESTA application form is available. The new form contains additional questions to address the new travel eligibility requirements called for in the Act. We encourage travelers seeking an ESTA to use the enhanced system, which will assist in making individual determinations on the potential granting of a waiver. There is no separate application for a waiver.

Current ESTA holders should check their ESTA status prior to travel on CBP’s website.

Please click here for further information.