The visa-waiver program allows citizens of 38 countries to travel to the US as visitors for up to 90 days without having first obtained a visa at a US consulate or embassy. To use the visa-waiver programs, citizens of these countries must first obtain an authorization online through the ESTA webpage by answering a few questions about their history of travel and background. Each ESTA clearance is valid for two years. With the ESTA clearance, these citizens can present their passports and be admitted to the US.
However, after the terrorist attacks in Paris on November 13, 2015, which had been committed by all European citizens who were eligible to receive visa-waiver, the US added restrictions on the visa-waiver program. Individuals who have traveled to the following four countries on or after March 1, 2011 are prohibited from using the visa-waiver program: Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria. On Thursday, February 18, 2016, the Department of Homeland Security added three more countries to the list: Libya, Somalia, and Yemen.
It should be noted that individuals covered by the new restrictions are not prohibited from entering the US. However, they can no longer participate in the visa-waiver program. They must first apply for a visitor visa at a US consulate and be vetted through the process. Some limited exceptions apply.
Many business visitors, such as suppliers, vendors, and business partners of US businesses rely on the visa-waiver program to come to the US for business trips. With the new restrictions on the visa programs, they may be affected without even knowing about it. For additional information, please visit the Department of State’s website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html