The United States have begun implementing changes to the ESTA Programme under new laws meaning that some travellers will now be unable to travel to the United States.
Under the new changes, travellers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):
- Nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country).
- Nationals of VWP countries who are also nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria.
This means that if you have visited since 2011, or are a dual-national of any of those countries, to you will not be able to apply for an ESTA online. You will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at US Embassy in London.
Travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and who have previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked.
Under the new law, the Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if he determines that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. Categories of travelers who may be eligible for a waiver include:
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of an international organizations, regional organizations, and sub-national governments on official duty;
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on behalf of a humanitarian NGO on official duty; and
- Individuals who traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria as a journalist for reporting purposes;
- Individuals who traveled to Iran for legitimate business-related purposes following the conclusion of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015); and
- Individuals who have traveled to Iraq for legitimate business-related purposes.
Whether ESTA applicants will receive a waiver will be determined on a case-by-case basis. In addition, we will continue to explore whether and how the waivers can be used for dual nationals of Iraq, Syria, Iran and Sudan.
An update to the ESTA website will be released in February with extra questions surrounding this new implementation.