Friday, January 22, 2016

US enforces new visa waiver rules

The United States on Thursday started implementing changes to the US Visa Waiver Program (VWP) for citizens of 38 foreign countries.

Starting from Thursday, nationals of the VWP partner countries are required to get a visa ahead of their trip to the United States if they "have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011," said a statement by the US Department of State, adding that limited exceptions exist for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country.

In addition, nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of the abovementioned four countries are no longer eligible for the VWP program.

Despite the new restrictions, the US Secretary of Homeland Security may still "waive these restrictions" on a "case-by-case basis" for individuals who traveled to the four countries as journalists, or on behalf of humanitarian agencies on official duty, or on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations and provincial or local governments, or for legitimate business-related purposes, according to the statement.

The VWP currently permits visa free travel for 20 million visitors each year to the United States for citizens of 38 program partner countries.

After the Paris terrorist attacks on Nov. 13, 2015, which killed at least 130 people and wounded over 300 others, US lawmakers and government officials worried that the current VWP, which allows citizens from partner countries to enter the United States for as long as 90 days without a visa, could pose a security threat to homeland security.

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