New legislation, included as part of the government spending bill, enacts new changes to the visa waiver program (VWP), imposing additional restrictions on travelers from VWP countries. The new changes require a consular interview for nationals of, or individuals who have traveled to, countries that have supported terrorism or other “high risk” countries, including Syria, Sudan, Iran, and Iraq, since March 2011.
The legislation also imposes additional rules on VWP countries. VWP countries will be required to screen travelers to their country through Interpol, with the exception of travel between countries in Schengen Zone (22 of the European Union countries). Visa Waiver Program countries who are not already issuing machine-readable passports to confirm an individual’s identity will be required to start issuing such passports next year. VWP countries must also immediately report lost or stolen passports to Interpol. Failure to comply with the additional rules may result in revocation of VWP country designation.
It remains unclear whether these changes will provoke similar restrictions on U.S. travelers to VWP countries, though there have been indications that such changes may result.