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U.S. Department of State Implements Visa Waiver Program Entry Restrictions - January 22, 2016

The budget bill, which was signed into law in December, disallows “Visa Waiver” entries for nationals of Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan (whether or not they have ever visited those countries) and persons from any country who have visited those countries after March 1, 2011. 


The government has now started implementing this rule.


If you are from one of the 38 Visa Waiver Countries (those that allow travel to the U.S. for business or pleasure without obtaining a visitor visa through registration with ESTA) and you are also a national of, or have traveled to Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since March 1, 2011 (with some limited exceptions), you will need to obtain a visitor visa to enter the United States. See information from the Department of State (DOS) and Department of Homeland Security.  If you try to use ESTA you will find that your approval has been revoked.


We suggest you start the application process well in advance of travel as the additional work load at U.S. consulates could be significant and waiting times may be long.  Also be aware that if the U.S. government considers you a security risk, you will be denied the visa you are seeking.


Although DOS stands ready to expedite requests for visas in certain situations, we expect that this new requirement for visas may slow visa processing in general.  The Department of State, which operates U.S. consulates world-wide and is the only agency that can issue a visa, has limited staffing.