The VWP (Visa Waiver Program) is a program that allows nationals of the 38 signatory countries to travel to the United States for business or tourism for a period of no more than 90 days without needing a visa. In exchange, these 38 countries must allow United States nationals to travel to their countries for tourism or business for a similar 90-day period. The Visa was created to strengthen protection measures and guarantee the safety of visitors to the United States. As part of the VWP, there is an online ESTA authorisation process which is a selection procedure that analyses the applicant’s information to determine online whether they are eligible for travel to the USA.
Nonetheless and due to recent terrorism-related events around the world, the United States government has decided to increase the level of protection around its citizens. Specifically, new eligibility criteria have been established for travel under the VWP through the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, approved on 18 December 2015.

Under this act, people who fall under any of these categories may not travel to the United States:

1. Nationals of the 38 VWP signatory countries who have travelled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria after 1 March 2011.
2. Nationals of the VWP signatory countries who are also nationals of Iraq, Irak, Sudan or Syria.

As of 21 April 2016, these travellers will need to apply for the corresponding visa although any ESTAs already granted will not be revoked. However, the authorities have the power to revoke a certain number of ESTAs if they gain knowledge that the applicants are not eligible due to the new VWP restrictions.

The restrictions do not apply to people who have travelled to those countries for military service or government workers on official missions
The 2015 Act also requires that passengers visiting the United States of America under the VWP use an electronic passport as of 1 April 2016. Moreover, the Act includes other measures to fight terrorism such as the international exchange of terrorism and criminal information.

Travellers subject to the VWP who may no longer use the ESTA service will be notified after 21 January 2016 via email. Therefore, this new measure will enter into force as of 21 January.


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