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Thursday, March 4th, 2021

DHS begins implementation of changes to visa waiver program

The United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced this week that officials will begin implementing changes to the to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enacted in the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015.”

Under the new regulations, nationals of VPW countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after March 1, 2011, are no longer eligible to travel to or be admitted to the United States. Additionally, nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria are also not eligible for entry. Individuals who fall into either category must now apply for a visa using the regular immigration processes at worldwide embassies and consulates.

Beginning January 21, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously held dual nationality with one of the four countries on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.

The legislation grants the secretary of Homeland Security the authority to waive the restrictions on a case-by-case basis. Categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include individuals who traveled to certain countries on behalf of international organizations, humanitarian NGOs on official duty, journalists who visited certain countries for reporting purposes, and for individuals with legitimate business-related purposes.