New changes to Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) Now in Effect

By Jamie Gorton

The Obama administration is implementing new legal changes made by Congress to the Visa Waiver Program (VWP), sometimes referred to as ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorization).

Currently residents of 38 different countries can visit the United States under the VWP, meaning they do not need to obtain a visa before visiting the United States. Under the new changes, anyone who has visited Iran, Iraq, Sudan, or Syria since March 1, 2011 will need to apply for a visa before coming to the United States.

Attorney Jamie Gorton, principal attorney at Gorton Law LLC, said, “The changes to the Visa Waiver Program are discriminatory and reactionary. American citizens deserve a border protection system that keeps them safe, but American citizens should also demand a border protection system that is fair, even-handed, and non-discriminatory. In the 134 years since the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, immigration professionals have learned that blanket targeting based on nationality is not a good way to protect American safety, freedom, or values. Congress has forgotten this important lesson, and instead acted in a knee-jerk way that worsens American relations with our global neighbors.”

The Ammerican Immigration Lawyer’s Association, of which Attorney Gorton is a member, has also spoken out against the restrictions to the Visa Waiver Program, found here. NPR’s coverage on the issue can be found at their blog, The Two-Way.

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