Imagine you arrive at the airport to travel to the US and negotiate a contract with a lucrative US company. If you sign this contract, you will make a big profit for your European company. You have made the necessary arrangements to ensure a smooth journey: you have arrived early for your flight, have confirmed that the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) application submitted last year is still valid and have your hotel and Your car hire in the United States is booked far in advance. However, if you arrive at the check-in desk, the flight agent will start questioning a recent business trip to the Middle East. After a brief discussion, the agent apologizes and informs you that you can not board the flight and are no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program. In shock, you must now return to your hometown, possibly lose business in the US and complete the process of issuing a US visa.
Why are you no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program?
Unfortunately, the above scenario is becoming more common. If you applied for ESTA after February 2016, you may have added a number of questions to the application. For example, the applicant is now asked to state whether he is or has been a national or a national of another country. The vast majority of people traveling to the US under the Visa Waiver Program are unlikely to be aware of any changes to the program, as the ESTA application is currently valid for two years.
Visa Waiver Program nationals traveling to Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen from 1 March 2011 no longer qualify for a visa-free entry into the United States. Citizens who are dual nationals of a Visa Waiver Program country, as well as Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria or Yemen, can no longer travel without a visa. For military or diplomatic reasons, there are only limited exceptions in one of the countries listed.
Who concerns this law?
The most obvious group affected by this new law are those who have traveled to one of the listed countries since 1 March 2011. However, an even larger number of persons who are also dual nationals may be excluded from applying under the new rules due to ESTA regulations. As an immigration lawyer, clients often state that they do not have a nationality because they do not have a valid passport for that country. It is important to note that a passport is just a travel document. A valid passport can be used to prove citizenship, but citizenship is not lost because the document has expired or is damaged.
The citizenship of a country depends on the rules and regulations of that country. For example, some nations do not allow dual citizenship and immediately deprive nationals of a second nationality of nationality. Alternatively, other countries require a formal process of resignation before you cease to be a citizen. In the most extreme cases, a country may never allow you to renounce your citizenship and consider you a citizen for life.
Before you apply for ESTA, you should be aware of whether or not you have dual citizenship of one of the above countries. For example, Mohamed was born the son of Libyan parents in Libya. When he was a child, his parents moved his family from Tripoli to Palermo, Italy. Mohamed maintained his Libyan nationality during his childhood and became an Italian citizen when he was 18 years old. He did not renounce Libyan citizenship. He now wants to travel to the US with his Italian passport under the Visa Waiver Program. Mohamed is Not entitled to travel visa-free as he is still considered a Libyan national.
A difficult scenario to determine would be the following: Amira was born in Baghdad, Iraq. Her parents, both Iraqi nationals, feared the persecution and fled to the UK as a child. Her entire family received British nationality when Amira was six years old. She has not been to Iraq since her family's gone, and she has no connections to the country – including a valid Iraqi passport. Amira, now 30, wants to travel to the US to bring her children to Disney World. She is not sure if she will be admitted to ESTA.
Unfortunately, this case is difficult to analyze. Amira does not know if she is still considered an Iraqi citizen. Without a formal waiver or due process regarding her Iraqi citizenship, she may still be considered an Iraqi citizen – even though she does not have a passport from the country. If Amira is indeed a dual national of the United Kingdom and Iraq and does not disclose this in her ESTA application, she may have misrepresented herself. Misrepresentation is a serious crime that permanently prevents a foreigner from entering the United States. As a precaution, Amira should get the right visa before traveling to the US.
What is the next step?
If you are no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program, either because you visited one of the listed countries on or after March 1, 2011, or if you are a dual national of a Visa Waiver country and one of the listed countries Own Prior to travel, the appropriate US visa must be obtained. If you are traveling to the US for tourism reasons, the B2 visa is a good alternative to traveling under the Visa Waiver program.
While it may be disappointing to no longer be eligible to apply for an ESTA visa, obtaining a B2 visa offers many benefits. A B2 visa is usually issued for a period of ten years. During this period, the owner can travel to the US regularly without having to apply for a new visa. If you enter the US on a B2 visa, the Immigration Officer will stamp your entry for up to six months. Since the visa is valid for ten years, you are not allowed to reside in the US for that period. You should not spend more than six months per calendar year in the US on a B2 visa.