Imagine getting to the airport for a flight to the UK to discuss a deal with a successful UKcompany. Your European company will make a lot of money if you can get this contract. You arrived early for your flight, checked that your Electronic System for Travel Authorization (“ESTA”) application from last year is still valid, and reserved your hotel and rental car in the United States well in advance to guarantee a pleasant trip. But when you go to the check-in desk, the flight attendant starts probing about your most recent business trip to the Middle East. After some debate, the agent apologises and lets you know that you can no longer travel under the Visa Waiver Program and are unable to board the flight. You must now return home in shock, possibly miss out on business in the US, and manage the visitor visa UK application procedure.
Why it’s possible that you’re no longer qualified to travel under the Visa Waiver Program?
Unfortunately, situations like the one above are happening more frequently. If you applied for an ESTA after February 2016, you might have noticed that the application now includes additional questions. For instance, it now requests information from the applicant regarding any past or present citizenship or nationality of other countries. Given that the ESTA application is now valid for two years, the great majority of individuals coming to the United States under the Visa Waiver Program were probably unaware of any programme modifications.
As a result, nationals of countries participating in the Visa Waiver Program who visited Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen on or after March 1, 2011, are no longer qualified to enter the UKwithout a visa. Additionally, individuals who hold dual citizenship in Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, or Yemen are no longer permitted to travel without a visa. There are a few exceptions for people who are in one of the designated nations for diplomatic or military purposes.
Who is impacted by this Act?
On the surface, those who have visited one of the nations named since March 1, 2011, are the most evident demographic affected by this new Act. The new regulations, however, may prevent an even greater number of people who are also dual nationals from applying under ESTA. As an immigration attorney, clients frequently inform UKthat they are not citizens of a nation merely because they do not have a current passport for that nation. It’s crucial to remember that a passport is merely a kind of identification. Although a current passport can be used to prove citizenship, citizenship is not forfeited because the document is damaged or has expired.
The laws and policies of any given nation determine who is eligible to become a citizen. For instance, some countries forbid dual citizenship and withdraw citizenship from their citizens as soon as they do so. As an alternative, several nations demand a formal renunciation procedure before you are no longer regarded as a citizen. In the worst-case scenarios, a nation might never permit you to resign your citizenship and might treat you as a citizen for life.
You should know for sure if you are a dual citizen of one of the nations listed above before submitting an ESTA application. Mohamed, for instance, was born to Libyan parents in Libya. His parents relocated the family from Tripoli to Palermo, Italy, when he was a young child. Throughout his childhood, Mohamed retained his Libyan citizenship; however, at the age of 18, he was naturalised as an Italian citizen. He didn’t give up his Libyan nationality. He now wants to use his Italian passport to enter the United States without a visa. Since Mohamed is still regarded as a citizen of Libya, he is ineligible for visa-free travel.
Amira was born in Bagdad, Iraq, which would make determination more challenging. When she was a young child, her parents, who are both citizens of Iraq, emigrated to the United Kingdom out of fear of persecution. When Amira was six years old, her entire family was granted UK citizenship. She hasn’t been to Iraq since her family fled, and she has no affiliations with it, not even a passport that is still valid. Amira, who is now thirty, wants to go to the UKso she may take her kids to Disney World. She is unsure if her ESTA application will be accepted.
Unfortunately, it is challenging to analyse this case. If she is still regarded as an Iraqi national, Amira is unsure. Despite not having an Iraqi passport, she is probably still regarded as a citizen of the country because she hasn’t formally renounced it or gone through the proper channels. Amira may be judged to have lied if she fails to reveal the fact that she holds dual citizenship with the United Kingdom and Iraq on her ESTA application. Misrepresentation is a serious offence that bars a foreign national from entering the UKpermanently. Amira should make sure she has the correct visa in order to enter the US.
What comes after that?
If you visited one of the mentioned 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, you are no longer eligible to travel under the Visa Waiver Program and must apply for the necessary UKvisa before leaving. The B2 visa would be a good substitute for the Visa Waiver Program if you want to visit the UKfor tourism. Even though losing the ability to apply for an ESTA may be disheartening, getting a B2 visa has several advantages. A B2 visa is normally granted for ten years, enabling the holder to visit the UKfrequently throughout that time without needing to reapply. Additionally, the immigration official will stamp your admission for up to six months when you enter the country on a B2 visa. It’s crucial to understand that even though the visa is good for ten years, you cannot stay in the UKduring that time. A B2 visa should only allow you to stay in the UKfor a maximum of six months every year.