Major Changes to the Visa Waiver Program

In response to recent terror attacks in Paris, Congress made significant changes to the Visa Waiver Program ("visa waiver") as part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016 (H.R. 158) on December 18, 2015. Visa waiver allows citizens of certain countries to enter the U.S. as a tourist without a visa for up to 90 days. Such travelers must have authorization under the Electronic System for Travel Authorization ("ESTA") prior to boarding a U.S. bound air or sea carrier as well as meet a few other criteria (i.e., possess a machine-readable passport).

The changes to visa waiver, which took effect immediately, include barring previously eligible persons from using visa waiver if during the past five years they have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Sudan, or if they are dual nationals of those countries.  Foreign nationals affected by this change will be required to apply for a tourist visa at a local U.S. Consulate or Embassy abroad. Other changes to the Visa Waiver Program include revised conditions for participating countries such as passport security requirements, screening protocols, and information sharing. Congress has also included revocation provisions for participating countries failing to meet the new requirements.

If you have questions about the changes to the Visa Waiver Program, please contact the attorneys at Iandoli Desai & Cronin P.C. at