The Obama Administration has tightened the rules to its “Visa Waiver Program” following the horrific terror attacks in Paris last year. The new restrictions are included in a bill passed by the US Congress last month. The changes were made in order to make it harder for potential terrorists to enter the country, reports Sky News.
According to the “Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act 2015,” those Australians who have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after 1 March 2011 won’t be able to enter the United States using the “Visa Waiver Program” due to changes introduced, informs news.com.au.
The Guardian reports that people will have to apply for a visa through the regular process at an embassy or consulate. Those who already have a valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTA) will have them revoked.
These changes are bound to affect 38 countries who are eligible to use the visa waiver system and Australia is one of them. A new and more detailed ESTA questionnaire will be released on February 2016, according to news.com.au.
According to Reuters, the US secretary of Homeland Security has the authority to issue waivers to the restrictions on law enforcement or national security grounds. People who have traveled to the countries mentioned above on behalf of international organizations or humanitarian groups, or journalists who carried out reporting in the four countries may be eligible for a waiver. They may also include people who traveled on account of legitimate business reasons to Iraq or to Iran following the July 14, 2015 nuclear agreement.
Belinda Ward, managing director of G Adventures, an independent adventure travel company, opines that the new changes might disrupt people’s travel plans. “The move by the US government to add these new conditions to their visa waver program did come as a surprise and will no doubt be front of mind for any Australian travelers planning on visiting America who have visited these countries in the past, or are dual nationals of these countries,” she said.
“It does not mean at all that they are banned from visiting the US, but may mean travelers should plan ahead as visa applications can take time,” she added.