29. januar 2016

Visa Waiver (ESTA) No Longer Valid for Individuals who have Travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan

Beau Russell

On January 21, 2016, the U.S. government, through the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, made official what has been rumored for some time: certain individuals who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan on or after March 1, 2011 are no longer eligible for the Visa Waiver program (ESTA). This new regulation also includes those who hold dual nationality from the aforementioned countries.

Under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, any person who was otherwise eligible for the Visa Waiver Program, must now apply at a U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad in order to secure a visa if they have travelled to or hold nationality from Iraq, Iran, Syria or Sudan. The U.S. Government goes even further to say that they will revoke any ESTA previously issued to those who have dual citizenship from these countries.

There are exceptions to this new regulation. The law provides for five classes of persons who may be eligible for a waiver:

  • Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, 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;
  • 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 traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.

The U.S. Government is not clear, however, how the determination of whether an individual falls within an exception is made. They only state that a “case-by-case” determination will be made. How and where this determination is made is not clear. For now, any traveler who receives a notification that they are no longer eligible for the program, must present themselves at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate to apply for the visa in person.

As always, if you have any questions or concerns about how to apply for a B Visa if you are prevented from using the Visa Waiver Program please feel free to contact out firm.

Beau Russell is a U.S. Immigration attorney located in the Copenhagen Area. For the past several years in California he has helped hundreds of individuals solve their U.S. Immigration issues. Beau joined THOMAS THORUP LAW in 2015 and works from our Copenhagen Offices. His specialty is assisting businesses and families obtain non-immigrant/temporary visa and permanent/immigration visas (“green cards”) to the U.S.