Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

New Visa Waiver Program Restrictions

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Congress Passes Potentially Discriminatory Law

Have you heard that Congress passed a new law to discriminate against nationals of Iraq, Syria, Sudan and Iran? Did you hear that Sudan and Iran were added to the list at the last minute, just before the bill was passed?

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We want our readers to know what the new rules mean for them and hope to dispel some of the alarmism that makes it sound like Congress intended the new rules to be racist and discriminatory.

The Visa Waiver Program

The Visa Waiver Program (“VWP“) allows citizens of specific countries to enter the United States, 90-days at a time, for limited purposes. There are currently 38 VWP Designated Countries; these countries are predominantly located in Europe, with a few countries making the list from Asia and South America. Notably, there are no countries from Africa or the Middle East on the VWP Designated Countries list.
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The VWP process involves applying for approval through the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA“). According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (“CBP“), “[t]he ESTA application collects biographic information and answers to VWP eligibility questions.” Generally, ESTA authorization is only denied on a case-by-case basis for specific reasons.

Historically, any citizen of a VWP Designated County could take advantage of the Program, as long as they were not denied ESTA approval by the CBP. Recently, Congress passed a law that blocks certain citizens of VWP Designated Countries from entering the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. This is the first time in the almost thirty-year history of the Program that a measure like this has been enacted.

Capitol ThumbnailThe Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2015

In brief, the new rule means:

If you are a citizen of a VWP Designated County and –

(1) also a national of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Libya or Somalia; or,

(2) have visited one of these countries for any private purpose since March 2011,

then you cannot take advantage of the Visa Waiver Program.

In our brief description we put Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Libya and Somalia in italics because they are not named in the text of the bill. The bill, as signed by the President, only names Iraq and Syria; however, it gives the Secretary of Homeland Security a broad power to designate any other country (or area of concern) to the exclusionary list. Furthermore, it adds any country that the Secretary of State determines has “repeatedly provided support of acts of international terrorism.”

Library Search Thumb(Note: If you want to see the actual text of the bill that was signed into law, then you will have to do some digging. It was originally drafted in the House of Representatives, then sent over to the Senate, and then attached as a “rider” to a huge spending bill. It is located in “Division O” of the bill, which is not even listed in the table of contents).

Yemen, Libya and Somalia were added to the list by the Department of Homeland Security. Iran and Sudan were automatically included in the list because the Secretary of State has maintained them on a list of countries that provide material support to terrorism.

What Does This Mean?

Despite what is being widely reported, this law was not meant to discriminate against Iranian nationals born abroad, or specific individuals from any of these countries. Iran was not “included” in the list for any reason other than that every Secretary of State, since 1984, has included Iran on a list of nations that provide material support for terrorism. In fact, Iran would be one of the easiest nations to see removed from this list because Congress was not responsible for putting them on the list; all it would require would be for Secretary of State John Kerry to cease from designating Iran as a nation that provides material support to terrorism.

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In short, America is still ready to welcome immigrants who are nationals of any of the listed countries through the normal visa process!

For Our Readers

We have a number of amazing clients from countries designated on this new list and are the first to recognize that treating all nationals of these nations like terrorists is absurd. Thankfully, while barred from the Visa Waiver Program, we can help nationals from any of these nations secure another kind of visa to enter the United States.

woman-690036_960_720If you are interested in traveling to the United States and happen to be a citizen of Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Iran, Yemen, Libya or Somalia, we can help! We will make you a top priority for our firm because we know the value you can add to the United States. Call us, or fill out the free consultation form, today!

Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram

US Immigration Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram
Chris M. Ingram LL.M., ESQ – Immigration Attorney
Admitted in New York.
Practice Specializing in US Immigration Law
401 Wilshire Boulevard, 12th Floor,
Santa Monica,
California 90401
Tel: 310 496 4292

Everyday the Law Offices of Chris M. Ingram provides a comprehensive range of US Immigration expertise. We also provide a free consultation for our prospective clients.

Please note that nothing contained in this website or link therefrom shall be regarded as providing legal advice. Please contact us directly for legal advice specific to your situation. Thank You.

Specializing in the E2 Visa, EB1 Green Card, L-1A Visa and O1 Visa and K1 Visa Marriage-Based Immigration. Attorney Chris M. Ingram is dedicated to providing the very best in US Immigration legal representation. Enjoy our website.

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