Travel: entering the US just got harder with new visa waiver laws

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.




    To make a comment, please register or login
    2nd Mar 2016
    I don't see a problem with this. If you meet certain criteria, you have to make a visa application and be formally assessed. The process does not mean you will automatically be denied entry to the USA, it just means you need to plan ahead. The USA is not the only place to require people to have a travel visa nor is it the only country to have varying criteria for assessment of visa applications. And the problem with that is.........?
    Polly Esther
    2nd Mar 2016
    Yes you can't blame them for this, and it is my belief Australia should be thinking along the same lines. Unfortunately the world is just not the same as it used to be anymore.
    2nd Mar 2016
    I agree with you Polly. America is one of the countries I still visit as I have always felt safe there. I like the security including visa registration and finger printing etc.

    I won't travel to Europe now as the security just does not exist any more.
    2nd Mar 2016
    I wish Australia had similar laws. That way the clerics who come here to incite hate and start a civil war would not get a foot in. That is how it should be.
    My only comment to the family who now have to apply for a visa is visit another country if this family chooses not to understand the reason why these changes have occurred. For the record.....there was an event called 911. Perpetrated by imported terrorists.
    I agree with the position of the US. And yes it does make life a little difficult for those caught in the middle.
    Chris B T
    2nd Mar 2016
    Is that The Miidle East.
    2nd Mar 2016
    I would have thought the americans would have been issuing visa, since the 911 thingy, and i think australians should adopt the same thing.
    2nd Mar 2016
    Australian should have adopted this legislation a number of years ago, but we are too laid back, with a "ah, she'll be right" attitude. And the government don''t have the guts to stand up and say this, in case "it upsets someone". Never mind about the Aussie ... Oh Pauline, you knew what you were saying, but they didn't want to listen.
    2nd Mar 2016
    Buby, until the current Visa Waiver program started, Australians always needed a Visa to travel to the US, long, long, long before that "911 thingy" you so ignorantly put it.

    I applied for several years ago when I used to travel quite a bit. They used to last for about 2 years I think. Memory not what it was, and I can't be bothered going and checking my old passports.

    They were not that easy to get either, the form asked a lot of questions, particularly if you were a communist, had convictions etc.
    26th May 2016
    I'd pity those whose flight was booked for the day the law was changed. But if there's time to buy a visa, it's just another hurdle that many already have to face.
    ex PS
    8th Jul 2016
    Until they get their guns and gun owners under some sort of control, the United States is not even on my list of places to go.
    Why would anyone put themselves and family at risk when there are far more interesting and safer places to go?

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