New Rules for the Visa Waiver Program Went Into Effect December 2017

Houston, TX (Law Firm Newswire) February 12, 2018 – The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) affects 38 countries whose citizens travel without visas to the United States. The VWP permits citizens of mainly European countries to travel to the United States for up to 90-days. This includes Japan, Taiwan, Australia, Germany, South Korea and the United Kingdom. Citizens must obtain a travel authorization to enter the United States.

As of December 2017, there are three new rules in place affecting the level of scrutiny VWP countries now receive. The new rules, introduced by the current administration for security reasons, state that:

· The countries must screen everyone entering their country against U.S. counter-terrorism databases of known terrorists and other possible national security threats.
· The United States will assess the measures used by each country to protect against insider threats at airports
· The United States will now mandate that no more than 2 percent of travelers from each country will end up staying past their visa expiration date (visa overstays)* (countries exceeding the threshold of overstays)**

* Visa overstays refer to approximately 40 percent of roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants residing in the United States.

** Countries whose U.S. visitors are over the 2 percent threshold of overstays, based on data from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), are mandated to implement public information campaigns focusing on the consequences of overstaying a visa’s expiration date. According to 2016 data, this requirement currently affects San Marino, Hungary, Portugal and Greece. One penalty for overstaying a visit is that the visa holder may not travel visa-free to the United States in the future.

The latest adjustments to the VWP are, in part, in response to members of Congress voicing concern about the possible security risks of overstays. In May 2017, a DHS inspector general revealed there was no comprehensive system to collect information on departing visitors.

Should any of the 38 countries not comply with the newest VMP revisions, the United States has suggested it may remove a country from the VWP or put a variety of sanctions in place to limit travel to the United States.

“Given the changing nature of the rules and regulations regarding obtaining visas to the United States, it is wise to speak with an experienced immigration attorney,” said respected Houston immigration lawyer, Annie Banerjee. “Our office can help you with your questions.”

Law Offices of Annie Banerjee
131 Brooks Street, Suite #300
Sugar Land, Texas 77478
Phone: (281) 242-9139

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