As a Miami immigration lawyer, I note that changes to immigration or travel policy will reverberate and have real-life consequences. Recently the White House announced changes to the visa waiver program. Below are some frequently asked questions.

What is the Visa Waiver Program?

The Visa Wavier Program is aimed toward permits visa free travel for 20 million visitors per year to the United States for citizens of 38 program partner countries around the world. People for whom all of the following things are true can skip the normal step of applying for a visa before entering the United States, and instead are offered relatively easy entry under what’s known as the Visa Waiver Program (VWP):

  • The person is from a country on the U.S. State Department’s list of Visa Waiver Program (VWP) participating countries. These countries have agreements in place allowing easy travel back and forth to the U.S., based in part on the country having a low rate of citizens who violate U.S. immigration laws or overstay their visas.
  • The person has not, him- or herself, violated the terms of any past nonimmigrant visa (for example, by staying in the U.S. beyond the time a previous permitted stayunder a visa expired), nor has otherwise become inadmissible (for example, because of having contracted tuberculosis, abused drugs, or committed crimes or security violations).
  • The person plans to visit the United States for no longer than three months (90 days) as a visitor for either pleasure or business.
  • The person does not intend to stay in the U.S. permanently.

If you have any questions in regard to the above,  I would recommend that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

What are the new changes to the visa waiver program?

The VWP program has come under scrutiny in light of the 2015 bombings in Paris, France, with questions arising regarding whether travel between the E.U. and other countries has become too easy. The White House has, in response to such concerns, issued a Face Sheet describing “Visa Waiver Program Enhancements.”

Some of the enhancements will be behind the scenes, simply trying to improve the systems of security checks that are already in place to screen travelers. Others have yet to be decided, as the White House has directed Congress to augment its authority in this area. If you have any questions in regard to this, you may want to speak with a Miami immigration lawyer.

Are there any other notable changes to the Visa Waiver Program?

Travelers who have been to countries that are considered “terrorist safe havens” may notice an entirely new potential barrier to U.S. entry. The U.S. plans to modify its Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) so that such past travel is shown, thus allowing U.S. officials to make traveler risk assessments accordingly. Someone who fails to pass this risk assessment may be turned around and refused entry at the U.S. border, airport, or other port of entry, regardless of being from a VWP country. Again, I would recommend that you speak with a Miami immigration lawyer in regard to this.

If you would like more information on changes to the visa waiver program (VWP), please contact Miami immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, Esq. at (305) 895-2500 or visit our website at www.mmurraylaw.com.