How New USA Visa-Free Travel Policies Could Alter Your Travel Plans

The US is actively seeking to streamline the immigration process. One way that the government is doing this is by extending the number of countries on the Visa Waiver Program. Citizens from a select group of countries don’t have to apply for a tourist visa if they want to enter the United States. Under the Visa Waiver Program, these travelers can access the country for a total of 90 days. There are, of course, a few things to consider for people who want to head to the United States under these conditions.

One of the first things to keep in mind is that anyone who enters the country under this scheme won’t be able to look for a job or apply for a driver’s license. This is not the immigration scheme that’s going to suit students, either. Suppose that a person decides to take a summer program at a university. If there’s academic validity within the program, foreign students would likely not be able to enroll unless they have a valid student visa. These visa-free travel policies apply to people who want to travel to the US for business or pleasure. Technically, on the business side, they would not be able to hold direct employment. This extension to the visa-free travel policies can be a perfect way for people who want to head to the US for the upcoming World Cup or the Olympic Games to be able to do so. In fact, it could be argued these two massive sporting events are the reason why some of these programs are being set in motion.

Apart from the work restrictions, there are other elements to keep in mind if you want to travel to the US without a visa. The first thing that’s noteworthy is that travelers must apply for an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). In essence, this is a survey that a traveler must complete, and they will be notified if they can access the US without a visa. Going through this process costs $17. That’s much cheaper than the tourist visa, which costs $185. If the person already has a valid tourist visa, they can just access the country with that. They wouldn’t be able to apply for this program.

Traveling to places like Cuba can disqualify a person from this program! If you’ve traveled to North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011, that’s also going to disqualify you from the program. This doesn’t mean that if you’ve traveled to any of these places, you can no longer visit the United States. In fact, there are exceptions to the program.

Suppose you’re a UK service member, and you traveled to Iraq on duty; that trip would not disqualify you from the program, in theory. If you have traveled to any of these places for pleasure, you could still apply for a tourist visa and enter the US that way. Everything is subject to approval, so nothing is set in stone. If you’re planning a trip to any of these countries, it could be a good idea to alter your travel plans to access the US first. If that’s not possible, then you’ll have to apply for a regular tourist visa even if you hold a passport from one of the countries on the exempt list.

Mario Perez

Author: Mario Perez


Mario is a seasoned journalist who’s worked with multiple publications over the years. He has a passion for looking for that story within the story itself. When he’s not actively looking for breaking news, he enjoys playing and watching sports.

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