04 May CBP FAQs on the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act
The VWP permits citizens of 38 countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for stays of up to 90 days without a visa. In return, those 38 countries must permit U.S. citizens and nationals to travel to their countries for a similar length of time without a visa for business or tourism purposes.
Since its inception in 1986, the VWP has evolved into a comprehensive security partnership with many of America’s closest allies. The VWP, administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), in consultation with the State Department, utilizes a risk-based, multi-layered approach to detect and prevent terrorists, serious criminals, and other mala fide actors from traveling to the United States.
Under the revised Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the VWP: (1) Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions): and (2) Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
These restrictions do not apply to VWP travelers whose presence in Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan was to perform military service in the armed forces of a program country, or in order to carry out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of a program country. Travelers who are known to fall into the dual national category will receive notice about their current ESTA status. The Act also requires that all VWP travelers use an electronic passport for travel to the United States by April 1, 2016.
Source: Department of Homeland Security, “CBP, Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act Frequently Asked Questions” (Jan. 22 2016), AILA Doc. No. 16012200.