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US Visa Waiver Program changes

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In December 2015, legislation passed in the United States that will impact some travellers heading to the US. There are two specific rule changes that are most important.

1. Customers with certain dual citizenship

Customers travelling to the USA who are citizens of countries that participate in the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and are also citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, cannot enter the country under the VWP. They must obtain a visitor visa.

This means that an Australian citizen, travelling on an Australian passport who is normally eligible for an ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) will have to apply at their nearest US consulate for a visitor visa if they are also a citizen of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.

Please note the following important information:

  • The dual citizenship applies even if the customer is not holding a second passport for Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria.
  • Any individual, irrespective of where they were born or reside is considered a citizen of Iran, Sudan or Syria if their father was born in that country.

2. Customers who have visited certain countries since 1 March 2011

The second ruling is the restriction on entry to the USA by people (of any nationality) who have visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia or Yemen since 1 March 2011. These people, even if from a Visa Waiver Program country, will also be required to obtain a visitor visa for the USA.

Please note the following important information:

  • The only exception to this ruling is if the customer visited one or more of these countries as part of their military service.
  • For all other customers, whether their visit was to see friends/family, as tourists or aid/health workers; a visitor visa will be required.

The Homeland Security and ESTA websites (including the FAQs) have not been updated to advise of these changes. It is expected the websites are in the process of being updated.

Click here for more detailed information on the US Visa Waiver Program.

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