No change to visa-free ESTA travel, but some visas will require an interview at the US consulate before they can be renewed.
There's been plenty of misreporting over the impact of President Trump's Executive Order to tighten immigration into the USA, including aspects of travelling to the US for both leisure and business.
Some news outlets have incorrectly claimed that Australians planning to visit the US "could be forced to undertake an in-person interview with American officials under strict new border rules."
This is utter nonsense stemming from an incorrect reading of the Executive Order and a lack of understanding of the current US system for both visa and visa-free travel. So here's the real deal.
Visa-free ESTA travel
There's no change to the current and largely hassle-free ESTA 'visa waiver' scheme which allows travellers to enter the USA without obtaining a visa, simply by completing an online application.
Most travellers to the USA do so under the ESTA visa-waiver program, with ESTA clearances valid for two years and allowing an unlimited number of entries into the US for both business and leisure purposes.
When your ESTA permit expires, you jump back online and apply for a new one. Nothing about this process will change.
Travel requiring a visa
ESTA aside, there are still many instances where a visa is required. It's necessary to visit the US consulate for an interview as part of the application for these visas, but no interview is needed when it's time to renew the visa.
This is where some publications mucked it up: they confused the ESTA-based Visa Waiver Program (VWP) with the Visa Interview Waiver Program (VIWP). The former removes the need for a visa; the latter removes the need to be interviewed for some visa renewals.
Under President Trump's Executive Order, the VIWP has been suspended – meaning that some travellers with a US visa will have to attend the US Consulate for an interview before their visa is renewed.
The specific reference, from Section 8 of Trump's 'Protecting the Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into the United States' Executive Order, determines that "the Secretary of State shall immediately suspend the Visa Interview Waiver Program and ensure compliance with section 222 of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1222, which requires that all individuals seeking a nonimmigrant visa undergo an in-person interview, subject to specific statutory exceptions."
For further information, visit au.usembassy.gov.
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