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House passes restrictions on visa-free entry into the US

Visitors from all over the world travel to the U.S. every day for many reasons. Whether a person enters as a tourist, for business or school or to visit family, they will need to comply with federal immigration laws and visa requirements.

In most cases, people will need to secure a visa that reflects why they are in the U.S. and how long they can lawfully stay. But there are people who are eligible to travel here without having to obtain a visa thanks to the Visa Waiver Program. However, important changes could be made to this program that will change eligibility requirements.

Recently, the House passed a bill that prohibits people who have traveled to Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria since 2011 from entering the U.S. without a visa.

A person need not be a citizen of those countries to be denied visa-free entry. Even if someone is a citizen from any of the 38 countries that participate in the VWP, he or she would now have to get a visa to come to the U.S. if he or she had visited the above-mentioned countries.

Currently, citizens of countries like Germany, France, Norway, Spain Japan and the United Kingdom are eligible to come here without a visa as long as they are staying for no more than 90 days and are here for tourism or business.

If the bill passes, these same people would still be eligible for the VWP unless they have been to Iraq, Iran, Sudan and Syria in the past four years. In that case, they will need to go through the visa application process.

The measure is a move to prevent people with potential ties to terrorist groups outside the U.S. from coming here without a visa. The bill now heads to the Senate for approval. We will certainly be following this matter as it could dramatically affect anyone who is currently eligible for the VWP.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "In rare bipartisan vote, House passes visa-waiver bill to beef up travel restrictions," Lisa Mascaro, Dec. 8, 2015

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