The United States has implemented changes under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015 (the Act). Under the Act, travelers in the following categories are no longer eligible to travel or be admitted to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP): nationals of VWP countries who have traveled to or been present in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria on or after March 1, 2011 (with limited exceptions for travel for diplomatic or military purposes in the service of a VWP country) and nationals of VWP countries who are also dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria. These individuals will still be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at U.S. embassies or consulates.

Beginning January 21, 2016, travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) and previously indicated holding dual nationality with one of the four countries listed above on their ESTA applications will have their current ESTAs revoked. The Secretary of Homeland Security may waive these restrictions if it is determined that such a waiver is in the law enforcement or national security interests of the United States. People who are found to no longer be eligible for VWP at a port of entry will have the opportunity to apply for a waiver to gain entry. 

For more information, please see the Media Note on “Implementation of Changes to the Visa Waiver Program.”

DHS Enhances Opportunities for H-1B1, E-3, CW-1 Nonimmigrants and Certain EB-1 Immigrants

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) final rule that enhances opportunities for H-1B1, E-3, CW-1 nonimmigrants and certain EB-1 immigrants was published in the Federal Register on January 15, 2016, and will become effective on February 16, 2016.

The final rule is applicable to:

  • highly skilled workers in the nonimmigrant classifications for specialty occupation from Chile, Singapore (H-1B1) and Australia (E-3);
  • the immigrant classification for employment-based first preference (EB-1) outstanding professors and researchers; and
  • nonimmigrant workers in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI)-Only Transitional Worker (CW-1) classification.

The relevant sections of the final rule include the following:

  • DHS is authorizing continued employment with the same employer for up to 240 days for H-1B1 and principal E-3 nonimmigrants whose status has expired, but while their employer’s timely filed extension of stay request remains pending.
  • In addition, DHS is providing this same continued employment authorization for CW-1 nonimmigrants whose status has expired while their employer’s timely filed request for an extension of stay remains pending.
  • Employers petitioning for EB-1 outstanding professors and researchers may now submit initial evidence comparable to the other forms of evidence already listed in 8 CFR § 204.5(i)(3)(i), much like certain employment-based immigrant categories that already allow for submission of comparable evidence.

Redesignation and Extension of Temporary Protected Status for South Sudan

Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation for South Sudan has been extended from May 3, 2016, through November 2, 2017, due to the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions in South Sudan that prevent its nationals from safely returning. These actions will allow eligible nationals of South Sudan (or persons without nationality who last habitually resided in South Sudan) to register or re-register for TPS in accordance with the notice published in the Federal Register on January 25, 2016.

Who Is Eligible?

  1. Current TPS beneficiaries from South Sudan: To extend status, one has to re-register during a 60-day re-registration period that runs from January 25, 2016, through March 25, 2016.
  2. Initial applicants: South Sudanese nationals and persons without nationality who last habitually resided in South Sudan must demonstrate both continuous residence in the United States since January 25, 2016, and continuous physical presence in the United States since May 3, 2016, the effective date of the redesignation of South Sudan. To obtain TPS, one may apply during a 180-day initial registration period that runs from January 25, 2016, through July 25, 2016.