Today the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) added Libya, Somalia and Yemen to a list that would prohibit people who have visited those countries in the past five years from entering the US without a visa. Additional countries are expected to be added.

Following the terrorist attacks in Paris late last year, the US government announced changes to the visa waiver program that would make it harder for travelers to enter the US from Europe if they had dual citizenship from Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria, or had visited one of those countries in the last five years.

WHAT IS THE VISA WAIVER PROGRAM

The Visa Waiver Program allows passport holders from over 38 countries to travel to the United States for tourism, business, medical treatment or while in transit for up to 90 days without having to submit a US visa application. The program does not cover travel for the purpose of studying, working or immigrating to the US.

Most of Western Europe, Scandinavia, the Baltic states, America’s East Asian allies, and Australia and New Zealand qualify for the program. According to the New York Times, this allows approximately 20 million people to enter the US each year without having to navigate the US visa application process. Instead, foreign visitors can apply online for a travel authorization, pay a small (currently $14) fee and find out the same day whether or not they are approved.

WHAT COUNTRIES ARE INCLUDED IN THE VISA WAIVER PROGRAM

The 38 countries that currently participate in the Visa Waiver Program are:

  • Andorra
  • Australia
  • Austria
  • Belgium
  • Brunei
  • Chile
  • Czech Republic
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • Finland
  • France
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Iceland
  • Ireland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Liechtenstein
  • Lithuania
  • Luxembourg
  • Malta
  • Monaco
  • Netherlands
  • New Zealand
  • Norway
  • Portugal
  • San Marino
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Sweden
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR YOU?

Unless you have recently traveled to Iraq, Syria, Iran, Sudan, Libya, Somalia or Yemen you are unlikely to be affected, for now.

If you have visited those countries recently, you are not barred from the United Stated, but you will have to go through the more rigorous regular visa application process to enter the country. For more updates on US visa application requirements, check out the immigration news section of the Borderwise blog.