USA: Strengthened Visa Waiver Legislation Passed

December 16, 2015

The House of Representatives in the US has voted to bring in new restrictions relating to the visa waiver program following the Paris attacks. The White House-backed bill was proposed because the Paris attackers could have travelled to the US without a visa.  Few opposed the bill, it passed 407-19, and the legislation will advance through the Senate and is likely to become law by the end of the year.

Around 20 million travellers enter the US every year without a visa through the visa waiver program. The bill proposes that any foreign national who has visited Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Sudan in the past 5 years will be prevented from entering the US without a visa.  The changes will affect citizens of the 38 countries which include most of Europe, Australia, Brunei, New Zealand, South Korea and Singapore, that participate in the visa waiver program which enables you to visit the US for 90 days without requiring a visa.  Additionally, this would require all travellers arriving in the US under the visa waiver program to have electronic passports containing biometric data from April 2016.

Despite small opposition, some Democratic lawmakers indicated the bill is too broad and should allow exceptions for people such as; journalists and researchers. Democratic Representative Keith Ellison said, “Our focus should be on terrorism, not just country or origin”.

If you wish to discuss the above or require assistance with obtaining visit or work visas for the US, please contact us.