Virginia, US
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| Fragomen

Don’t be Denied – “B-1” Prepared

The United States government recently announced dramatic changes to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), which allows visa free travel to the US for qualified nationals of 38 countries after making an online application using ESTA authorisation. The changes are intended to benefit the legitimate travel of the over one million passengers arriving to the US every day. The changes, implemented on January 21, 2016, affect nationals of qualifying VWP countries who are also Nationals of ‘countries of concern’ namely Iran, Iraq, Syria and Sudan as well as Nationals of VWP countries who have travelled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan after March 1, 2011.

Approximately 16,000 dual nationals with ESTA authorization have been identified and had their ESTA authorizations revoked. United States Customs and Boarder Protection (CBP) is reaching out to those whose ESTA authorizations have been revoked on the basis of dual nationality with the largest portion of people affected being Australian, French, German, Swedish and British. These individuals will need to apply for a B-1/B-2 visa at a US consulate overseas before they can travel to the US for business or tourism and are likely to face additional security checks and delays.

The VWP changes create an exemption from the bar imposed for those who travelled to a country of concern for military or diplomatic purposes on behalf of a VWP country, and authorizes the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to grant a waiver of either provision if it is determined that to do so would be in the interest of US law enforcement or national security interests. To date, 1,600 individuals affected by travelling to a country of concern since March 1, 2011, have been identified by DHS and may have their ESTA authorizations cancelled in the future.

For those who have travelled to a county of concern since March 1, 2011 but have not had their ESTA authorization officially revoked and/or been notified these people will be adjudicated for admissibility eligibility at the point of entry by CBP to determine if they qualify for an exemption based on military or diplomatic service. Those found ineligible for an exemption will have the opportunity to apply for a waiver at the Point of Entry.

Finally, the law changing the VWP allows for constant revision of the countries of concern. There are already additional countries that may be added soon. To avoid the disappointing and frustrating cancellation of a planned trip due to being found ineligible or inadmissible under the changes to the VWP please contact the Fragomen Consular Practice for Asia-Pacific Team.