Beginning November 29, 2016, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will require Chinese nationals to enroll in the Electronic Visa Update System (EVUS) before they can travel to the United States using a ten-year B-1 temporary business visitor visa, B-2 temporary tourist visa, or combination B-1/B-2 visa. EVUS is an online system that collects basic biographical information like name, employment, origin, and destination. It was created as a result of the November 2014 agreement between the United States and China that increased the maximum validity period for B-1 and B-2 visas from one to ten years (please note that these visas do not allow Chinese nationals to remain in the United States for 10 years; instead, during a 10-year period of the visa’s validity, the visa holder can seek entry to the United States and may be admitted for up to 6 months during each stay). CBP has explained that the program is meant to strengthen both national security and the new reciprocal ten-year visa program with China. The system will provide for greater efficiency in screening travelers by identifying subjects of interest before they depart for the United States. Though it is currently limited to China, CBP hopes to expand coverage to other countries in the future.

The EVUS enrollment requirement applies only to holders of the ten-year B-1 or B-2 visas who are traveling on a passport issued by the People’s Republic of China. Visitors issued a different type of visa, with a visa that lasts less than ten years, or a under a passport other than that of China (like Taiwan, Hong Kong, or Macau) are not required to enroll in EVUS.

Enrollment will be mandatory for Chinese nationals entering the United States after Nov. 29, regardless of whether they obtained a B-1 or B-2 visa before this change took place, and the new policy thus affects both current visa holders and future applicants. Any Chinese national entering the United States on a covered visa must enroll by November 29, 2016. Those who already possess covered visas have until December 14, 2016 to enroll, unless they plan to travel to the United States between that date and November 29.

Enrolling in EVUS

Starting November 29, 2016, Chinese nationals must go online to enroll in the EVUS system before travel to the United States. CBP has not yet activated the system but expects to open it by the end of October and hopes to make the process easy and mobile phone-friendly. The cost of enrollment is $8, and the website will be available in both English and Mandarin Chinese. Friends, relatives, and other third parties will be allowed to submit information on a traveler’s behalf, and third parties will also be able to check EVUS status for individuals or groups.

Travelers must update their EVUS information every two years or when their visas or passports expire, whichever comes first. Moreover, there will be a continuing affirmative duty to update enrollment to reflect events such as a change of citizenship, name, or gender. A valid EVUS enrollment will be a requirement for entry into the United States for covered Chinese nationals regardless of when the B-1 or B-2 visa was issued, and CBP recommends that travelers enroll as early as possible, or at least 72 hours before travel. After November 29, covered travelers who fail to enroll will be unable to obtain a boarding pass or enter the United States.

CBP is updating information about EVUS on its website, https://www.cbp.gov/evus. The registration will be available at www.EVUS.gov. Clients with employees who are Chinese nationals should be aware that these employees may need to enroll in EVUS before future travel on a B-1 or B-2 visa. Hogan Lovells is available to assist in identifying or enrolling employees who are subject to the EVUS requirements.

Both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of State (DOS) have published final rules regarding EVUS in the Federal Register. The DHS rule establishes EVUS, and the DOS rule provides for automatic provisional revocation of visas held by covered aliens who fail to comply with the EVUS requirements. Comments are open for the DHS rule until January 18, 2017 and for the DOS rule until December 19, 2016.