Law Office of Leila Freijy PLLC
Immigration & Compliance Law 
Proposed Changes to Visa Waiver Program
  
Washington - Earlier this week the U.S. House of Representatives approved H.R. 158; which would implement changes to the Visa Waiver Program.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) has permitted passport holders from one of the 38 countries to enter the U.S. for up to 90 days without first obtaining a visitor visa stamp in their passport.  Eligible passport holders including citizens of: 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, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, San Marino, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan and United Kingdom.

Of course, there are some requirements that must be met in order for passport holders from these countries to be eligible for the VWP.  These requirements have included:  having a machine-readable passport, registering in ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization), which is a U.S. government mandatory application system that pre-screens potential visa waiver travelers.

Among the changes to the VWP proposed by H.R. 158 are the following:
  1. Beginning April 1, 2016, machine-readable passports must also be electronic so that the are fraud-resistant and contain relevant biographic and biometric information as determined by the Department of Homeland Security.
  2. No later than October 1, 2016, the governments of Visa Waiver countries must certify that passports issued meet the electronic requirements above.
  3. Foreign nationals who have travelled to certain countries since March 1, 2011 will be restricted from using the VWP.  These countries include Iraq, Syria or any other country or area of concern as determined by the Secretary of State of the United States.  These individuals will likely need to apply for B1/B2 visitor visas in their passports if they are prevented from using the VWP.
  4. Foreign nationals from Visa Waiver countries who are also nationals of Iraq, Syria or any other country or area of concern as determined by the Secretary of State of the United States, will be restricted from using the VWP.  These individuals will likely need to apply for B1/B2 visitor visas in their passports if they are prevented from using the VWP.

Currently, only the House has passed this bill.  It would also need to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the President.  Should it be passed into law in its present state, some of your foreign visitors to the U.S. will need to plan in advance to apply for B1/B2 visas, which will likely also entail completing lengthy background checks.

 

The proposed Visa Waiver changes should not impact any of your foreign national employees who are in the U.S. pursuant to F-1, J-1, H-1B, L-1, TN, O, etc. status. 

 

The proposed Visas Waiver changes will only impact certain foreign visitors who are typically entering the U.S. for short periods of time to attend business meetings, receive training, attend a conference, etc.

 

As more information becomes available, I will share it with you.


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If you have any questions or concerns about the information provided in this email, please don't hesitate to contact me.

 

Sincerely,

 


Leila Freijy
Law Office of Leila Freijy PLLC