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San Francisco Bay Area Immigration Blog

New Restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) allows residents of 38 countries to travel to the U.S. without a visa. Recently signed into law, the 2016 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2029) institutes new restrictions to the VWP. The new restrictions do not allow the following individuals to participate in the VWP:

  1. Individuals who have been present in Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan (or other countries designated by DHS as supporting terrorism or “of concern”) on or after March 1, 2011.
  2. Individuals who are nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran, or Sudan.

There are some exceptions and exemptions for these restrictions, such as military service for a VWP country in Iraq, Syria, Iran or Sudan. It is also important to note nationality is distinct from citizenship. Depending on the laws of the specific country, a person can be a “national” even if they never resided there.

To date, these new restrictions have had significant effects on individuals who are dual nationals of European countries and countries subject to the new restrictions. Given the VWP is based on reciprocity, some think these new restrictions could lead to responses from European governments making it more difficult for U.S. Citizens to travel.

If you have questions about whether or not these new restrictions apply to your personal situation, please speak directly with an immigration attorney.