The Department of Homeland Security has added Libya, Somalia and Yemen to the list of “countries of concern” for purposes of travel under the Visa Waiver Program. As expected, DHS continues to focus on international security threats, identifying and tightening programs with potential vulnerabilities accordingly.

Travelers who have been present in any of these three countries since March 1, 2011 will not be able to travel to the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate. The restrictions do not apply to individuals who are dual nationals of a Visa Waiver Program country and one of the three added countries.

Recent restrictions to the program were signed into law in December. Restricted countries originally included only Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria; however, the law allows DHS to update the list of countries of concern, and this is the first time it has been expanded. DHS may grant waivers on a case-by-case basis for individuals who have traveled to a country of concern on behalf of international organizations, governments or nongovernmental organizations on official duty or for humanitarian or journalistic purposes.

BAL Analysis: Visa Waiver Program travelers who have been to any of the countries of concern in the past five years will no longer be able to rely on their Electronic System for Travel Authorization to travel without a visa and should be prepared to apply for a visa and attend an interview at a consulate before planning any travel to the U.S.

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