In a measure to increase national security and in response to recent terrorist attacks in Paris and in California, on Thursday, January 21, 2016, the United States State Department and Department of Homeland Security released a joint statement that nationals of countries that participate in the visa waiver program who also hold citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria will no longer be eligible for visa-free entry. Individuals who do not hold citizenship in the aforementioned countries but have visited those countries on or after March 2011 are also no longer eligible for visa-free entry.

Nationals eligible under the visa waiver program have the benefit of bypassing the regular immigration process at United States’ embassies or consulates by using expedited electronic processing. Individuals affected by the new rules – those who are also citizens of Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria or who have visited those countries since March 2011 or those who have visited Libya, Somalia and Yemen since March 2011 – will still be able to apply for entry to the United States but must use the regular immigration process. Such travelers will be required to appear at a U.S. embassy or consulate for an interview and obtain a visa in their passport prior to traveling to the United States.

Any affected travelers who currently have valid Electronic System for Travel Authorizations (ESTAs) will have their current ESTAs revoked as of January 21, 2016. An updated ESTA application is scheduled to be released late February 2016 to address exceptions for diplomatic and military related travel.

For affected travelers who need a United States visa for urgent business, medical or humanitarian travel to the United States, U.S. embassies and consulates have agreed to process applications on an expedited basis.

Homeland Security is considering waiving these new requirements for those who had traveled to Iran, Iraq, Sudan or Syria for certain government, humanitarian or journalistic purposes or to Iran or Iraq on business; however, no concrete guidance has yet been given on these exemptions.

For more information on the Visa Waiver Program, please visit the Department of Homeland Security’s website at: https://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en/visit/visa-waiver-program.html

This immigration alert has been prepared by Pearl Travel Tech http://pearltraveltech.com/. Find more information about Pearl Travel Tech’s global business traveler tool providing instant immigration and tax assessments here: http://permiso.me!