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VISA WAIVER PROGRAM – Immigration Lawyer New York
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VISA WAIVER PROGRAM

By Michael H. Markovitch on November, 18, 2016

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables eligible travelers from 38 participating countries  to travel to the United States for business or tourism for 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. This period cannot be extended, nor can a VWP traveler change status, for example to a student visa, while in the United States. Travelers eligible for the VWP may apply for a visa, if they prefer to do so. In order to travel under the VWP, travelers must first receive travel authorization through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) , and must meet all eligibility requirements in advance of travel.
 
  • The U.S. government’s fee for an ESTA approved application is $14.  
  • To visit the official ESTA website, please go to: https://esta.cbp.dhs.gov/esta
 
On February 23, 2016, the United States announced additional changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, including an updated ESTA application form.  The new law does not ban travel to the United States, or admission into the United States, and the great majority of VWP travelers will not be affected by the legislation. 
 
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.
 
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 was recently made available. The new form contains additional questions to address the new travel eligibility requirements called for in the Act.  

For further information or questions you may have, please do not hesitate to contact The Law Offices of Michael H. Markovitch.                       
 

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