Under the VWP, nationals of 38 countries are able to travel to the US without obtaining a visa, provided they have ESTA approval prior to travel.
“The US government has taken a series of actions to ensure the Program’s requirements are commensurate with the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters”
However, the new restrictions, which are being implemented under the Visa Waiver Program Improvement and Terrorist Travel Prevention Act of 2015, mean that dual nationals of Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Syria must apply for a visa to travel.
The same restriction will also apply to nationals of visa waiver countries who have travelled to or been present in any of the four countries concerned since March 2011, with certain restrictions such as diplomatic or military-related travel.
“The US government has taken a series of actions in the past 15 months to strengthen the security of the VWP and ensure the Program’s requirements are commensurate with the growing threat from foreign terrorist fighters, many of whom are nationals of Visa Waiver Program countries,” a State Department official said.
The official added that anyone affected by the measures will be able to apply for a visa using the regular immigration process at US embassies or consulates.
The Secretary of Homeland Security will have the power to waive the restrictions in certain situations, for example if an individual is travelling as a representative of an international organisation, a journalist, a humanitarian worker or for some business-related purposes.
However, the Department has yet to confirm the process for obtaining this waiver.