New US visa waiver laws may make it very difficult for some to enter the country.
Travelling to North America may prove an impossibility for some Australians, as the US has tightened its Visa waiver laws in a bid to protect the country from the threat of terror.
Any Australians who have recently travelled to countries in the Middle East, as well as those who have dual citizenship in these same countries, now face tough new restrictions that may prohibit them from travelling to the US altogether.
The changes, which came into effect in January this year, prevent those who have travelled to Syria, Iraq, Iran or Sudan on or after March 2011 from entering the United States under the country’s Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act 2015.
And whilst the rule also applies to Middle Eastern nationals, there are some exceptions for those who travelled to those countries for military or diplomatic reasons.
Anyone who has travelled to the Middle East since then will now have to apply for a visa through an embassy or consulate.
“It does not mean at all that they are banned from visiting the US, but may mean travellers should plan ahead as visa applications can take time,” said G Adventures Managing Director Belinda Ward. “For Australian travellers that have not visited Iran, Iraq, Syria or Sudan since 2011, their travel plans will not be impacted at all by these changes. Those that have visited, or are dual-national citizens of one of the countries, however, will need to apply for a visa like residents of non-visa waiver countries.”
One Australian family, who migrated from Iran over seven years ago, are currently experiencing a tough time gaining permission to travel to the US, even though they booked and paid $6000 for a trip to Hawaii in December last year – a month before the new laws were put in place.
“As we are Australian citizens, obviously we did not need a visa to go to the US and happily spent a lot money, all non-refundable for our flights and hotels,” said Mr Ghaznavi-Zadeh, the father of the family in question. “Around late January this year, I realised the US law has changed and now we have to get a visa. Apart from the fact which we had to pay around additional $700 and apply for the visa, you can imagine how stressful it was to realise about a month prior [to] our scheduled trip.”
Tourists planning on visiting the States in the near future are advised to check the Smartraveller website for advice on the changes to visa waivers. Some travellers, including aid workers, journalists and those travelling for business may still be eligible for a waiver.
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