+1(212)459-3800 [email protected]

Previously we wrote that the White House planned to implement new security enhancements for the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Recently there have been updates regarding what these security enhancements would entail.

With a 407-19 vote, the House passed legislation intended to strengthen the visa waiver program in the aftermath of attacks in Paris and San Bernardino, California.
The legislation would prevent any foreign national who has visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Sudan in the past five years from entering the US without a visa.

The legislation is considered likely to advance through the Senate and become law by the end of the year.

If enacted, the bill would require all VWP travelers to present an e-passport with a biometric-enabled chip by April 1, 2016.  It would also bar most travelers who have visited Iraq and Syria since March 2011 from entering the United States under the program, and instead require them to go through the formal visa process, which includes an in-person interview.  An exception to this bar would be available to those who traveled to these countries in order to perform military service on behalf of the VWP country or carry out official duties as a full-time employee of the government of the VWP country.

ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization) registration will remain a requirement regardless of the legislation, and ESTA travelers are likely to be subject to heightened scrutiny in the current landscape.  As a reminder, ESTA registration is required for all those traveling to the United States under the VWP, and an approved ESTA application does not guarantee admission to the United States.