As of this morning, December 9th 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives have passed legislation aimed at changing the Visa Waiver Program which is one of the route for people visiting America for leisure or business purposes.
In the wake of the Paris terrorist attacks last month US lawmakers have been looking at ways to minimise the liklihood of a similar attack on American soil. The tone of the converstaion changed again after the recent terrorist attack in California where a gunman attacked fellow workers at a Christmas Pary function in San Bernadino.
There are approximately 38 countries worldwide which participate in the Visa Waiver Program, which in essence allows travellers to visit the US for up to 90 days without the need to apply and interview for a valid US visa.
Under the current program citizens of countries which are partners under the Visa Waiver Program can enter the US for up to 90 for leisure or business purposes (however not paid employment) without the need to undertake the additional interview and background checking process that is required if you intend of visiting the US for longer than 90 days, or trying to onbtain a Green Card to undertake paid employment whilst in the United States. For more information on what the current requirements include for Australians visiting the US read our story linked below:
Under the proposed changes any traveller who has visited either Iraq or Syria over the past 5 years will be required to apply for a Visa and will not be allowed entry to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program. The Bill has the ability to increase the number of countries where travel has been taken to require a Visa to enter America.
In addition to the screening of travellers, there is also suggestion that if a country wishes to remain a party to the Visa Waiver Program they will also need to share counter-intellegence information with the US or they will possibly face eviction from the program.
The exact details of what the revamped program would look like is not fully known, as the Bill still needs to be passed by the Democrat controlled Senate.
In the meantime it is business as usual for Australians travelling to the US who are eligible to enter under the Visa Waiver Program. Ensure that you have met all the requriements and have confirmation of your Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) in place before heading for the airport.
NewYorkConcierge.com.au will continue to keep our visitors and community members updated as to the progress of the Bill as it passes through the US Senate and what the exact outcomes for Australian travellers will be.
I recommend that all Australian travellers to the US keep an eye on the US State Department website and if you believe that any proposed changes may affect you individually you can contact your nearest US Embassy or Consulate via the details below:
Helpful US Visa resources
NewYorkConcierge.com.au recommends that you visit the following websites for further information relating to entry requirements for Australian Citizens to the United States: