Dallas, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 26, 2016 – On December 18, 2015, President Obama signed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016. The bill contained several immigration provisions which amended the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) and extended several programs until September 30, 2016, including E-Verify, Special Immigrant Religious Workers, The Conrad 30, and EB-5 Regional Centers provisions.
The appropriations law changed the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) in several significant ways. Under the VWP, nationals from 38 countries may visit the U.S. for up to 90 days without applying for a B-1/B-2 visa at a U.S. consular post abroad, provided such persons have been cleared through the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).
The new law excludes a participating visa waiver country national from using the VWP if that national has traveled to Syria or Iraq since March 1, 2011. It also excludes dual nationals of a participating country and either Iraq or Syria, or other designated country from using the VWP. The legislation exempts military personnel of a participating visa waiver country from these provisions if traveling under official orders, and provides for a waiver mechanism for law enforcement or national security purposes.
“Categorical denial of the use of the Visa Waiver Program to nationals of Iraq and Syria, who are also dual nationals of a participating visa waiver country, affects some Iraqis or Syrians who may have actually never been in either country,” said Stewart Rabinowitz, an immigration attorney with the Dallas firm of Rabinowitz & Rabinowitz, P.C. “If the goal is to keep us safe, a more surgical approach will likely lead to better results.”
The United States may designate additional “countries of concern” to be affected by the changes to the VWP. Persons affected by these amendments to the VWP can still travel to the U.S., but will first need to apply for a visitor’s visa at a U.S. consular post abroad.
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