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Update to Visa Waiver Program Restrictions

USflag_visaIn a blog that we posted just a few weeks ago, I wrote “Beginning in late 2015, individuals who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan (or other countries designated by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) as supporting terrorism or “of concern”) at any time on or after March 1, 2011, are not eligible to participate in the Visa Waiver Program.” Well, “other countries” were designated on February 18.

The Visa Waiver Program has allowed citizens of more than 35 countries to travel and be admitted to the U.S. for business or pleasure for 90 days without the need for a visa. Recent events in other parts of the world have resulted in the restrictions on the availability of this program based on country-specific travel or nationality.

On February 18, the restrictions were expanded from Iraq, Syria, Iran, and Sudan to include Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as three countries “of concern”. This limits Visa Waiver Program travel for certain individuals who have traveled to those countries since March 1, 2011. The restriction does not apply to individuals with dual nationality (nationals of the U.S. and any of those three countries).

As with the previous restrictions, the Secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. As a general matter, categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include individuals who traveled to these countries on behalf of international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty; on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty; or as a journalist for reporting purposes.

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The International Practice Group of Garvey Schubert Barer is a cross-disciplinary group of attorneys practicing in areas ranging from business transactions, immigration, maritime, government regulatory work, transportation and logistics, and estate planning. The group members include bilingual and multicultural attorneys who are well-versed in handling these subject matters in a cross-border context. The firm’s attorneys have been actively practicing in the international arena since the early 1970s. 
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